Bilimoria’s Cobra to foray into wines, beer cans

May 6th, 2008 - 6:00 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 6 (IANS) With Cobra emerging among India’s top 10 beer brands in three years, its owner Lord Karan Bilimoria now plans to launch both the regular and stronger versions in cans, while exploring options to foray into wines. The group is also looking at an initial public offering in the near future with plans to list the stock in Britain and India, besides holding talks for setting up either three new breweries or acquiring existing ones in the country.

“We hope to end this financial year - it’s July 31 for us - with a sale of 2-2.5 million cases of beer. That is more than 100 percent growth in India. The cans will be the next logical step,” Bilimoria said.

“Our brewery in Bihar already has the capability for cans and a couple of others among the nine where we brew our beer can also handle cans. We plan to launch the 500 ml cans - both regular and strong,” Bilimoria told IANS.

Cobra, which started out in India around three years ago, now brews its beer at nine locations - in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

“We are looking at three more breweries - it could be a brand-new facility or an existing brewery. This is part of our plans to invest $100 million in India over the next two years,” Bilimoria said.

“We are targeting 20 million cases annually with a 10 percent market share of the Indian beer market from around 2-2.5 million cases and 2 percent market share now. So the acquisitions are part of that strategy.”

Bilimoria, a cross-bencher in the British House of Lords, said his group’s plans to enter the Indian wine market were quite alive. The group produces more than 10 varieties of reds, whites and rose in Spain, France and South Africa.

“We have been looking at Nashik and Bangalore for our wines. But a country like India cannot have just two locations. There are bound to be more. We are taking a closer look at other places. We will soon have something to say on that.”

The co-chair of the Indo-British Partnership Network launched by the two governments a few years ago, Bilimoria said he saw a huge potential for wines in India, but hoped for a rationalised duty structure.

He said even in Britain, wines can sell for as low as three pounds, or less than Rs.250. “I see no reason why it should not sell for the same or even lower price in India.”

Speaking about Cobra’s global operations, Bilimoria said the group had managed to make some major innovations, by which their operations in Britain will cater to 90 percent of their global supplies, as opposed to Poland till recently.

He said the innovation involved a contract with a major bottle manufacturer that also had a brewery close by so that beer can be brewed elsewhere with bottling and packaging done at the facility nearby.

“To my knowledge, this is not being done anywhere. We hope to save $6 million in the first year and $14 million in the second with this innovation. We send the beer at high gravity (concentrated) and save on transporting water.”

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