In a tete-a-tete with Restaurant India, Rahul Singh, Founder & CEO, The Beer Café, shares his view on how the beer culture is shaping the Indian beverage industry. He further discusses his expansion plans and the concept of launching India's first PYOB (Pour Your Own Beer) chain:
How is the beer market different from other alcohol segment in India?
Tedious laws and procedures make Indian beer market very complicated. State taxes make beer more expensive than other alcohol as per volume. Overall beer constitutes just about 5 per cent of total alcohol consumed in the country. However, the market is expected to reach $9 billion by 2016. A lot of microbreweries are coming up in the market and the Delhi government recently announced that malls and pubs could have breweries on location. In terms of consumers, they prefer the stronger beer varieties. Globally, it is the opposite where most of the beer consumed is mild. But we are noticing a gradual shift toward lighter brews in India as well.
You have been in this industry since 2011. How do you see the beer culture shaping the Indian beverage industry so far?
There has been a great shift from hard liquor to beer. The beer industry saw a major growth in the year 2013 and is still growing at the rate of 8 per cent, which shows that the preference of beer over any other alcohol is more. Usually Indians prefer whiskey that is stronger and can give them an instant buzz, but due to rapid globalization young corporate and well-travelled consumers prefer relaxing and unwinding with a pint rather than a peg.
You are presently operating in Delhi-NCR and Chandigarh. What is your plan in taking 'The Beer Cafe' in other parts of India?
We have recently launched an outlet in Amritsar, two in Mumbai and one in Pune. We want to take The Beer Café to every neighborhood so that beer enthusiasts can enjoy their favourite international brews wherever they are.
What was the concept of launching India's first PYOB (Pour Your Own Beer) chain? How the business has been so far?
We have licensed the PYOB (Pour Your Own Beer) technology from DraftServ USA. We have about 8-10 beers on tap that can be poured directly by the consumer using a special RFID activated card. The customer will only be charged for as much beer they pour and they could try as many beers on the tap in the quantity they prefer. The card could be used at any outlets across the country. We have done pretty well in terms of business and we plan to take this technology to the next level.
Tell us more about this unique concept and different varieties of beer that you serve to your customers?
The concept of PYOB was put because we wanted our customers to taste all type of beers by pouring as much as they prefer for tasting. It is a unique concept. Ours is the only cafe in India that serves 50 different varieties of beer. We would like to increase both the overall number of bottled and draught beers. We are also introducing a new food menu that complements the beers available. This is something we are very excited about.
What is your share in the alco-beverage market in India?
The Beer Café is a very unique alco-beverage service chain. With not many peers in the industry it is difficult to compare. However, with 15 outlets across the country and 18 more in the pipeline, we are working towards becoming leaders in the industry.
You have recently raised seed funding to support expansion. Who are the investors and what is the amount you have received from them?
Yes, we received funding from Mayfield as they believe in the concept and its growth in India. The funding is being used to expand our presence across the country, introduce newer technology and a new retail format - The Beer Café BIGGIE which is completely different from the rest of the chain. We aim to have at least one BIGGIE outlet in every metro.