A White Owl 350 ml pint standard bottle beer costs in the range of Rs 110 to Rs 130 in Bengaluru
On a rainy day, one craves for either tea, coffee or a good beer.
There was a time when just like the US and other international markets, India had options of only mass-produced lager beers.
This is the gap that Javed Murad, founder of White Owl Brewery, saw in India and is trying to fill by offering robust premium craft beer to the country.
Starting in a 400 square feet-brewery in south Mumbai, which is also the smallest brewery across India, White Owl has a ready portfolio of new products in the pipeline.
The Harvard business graduate, who left behind his job in a multinational company in the US, claims of having a rich product portfolio.
“This is because we have our own brew pub. A lot of experimentation has been done and we have learned very fast. For the next five years we have no experimentation left to do on products. We have a portfolio ready,” said Murad.
Next month, beer lovers will have one more beer variant to taste – Spike, White Owl’s strong beer.
“We are going to introduce a strong wheat beer, which is flavor forward. Generally strong beer in India has been cheap lager which was usually bang for one's buck. We have six to seven styles of beer, of which half of them are strong beer and very flavor forward. But India doesn’t have that. Today there isn’t a single flavour forward strong beer that is being sold in restaurants,” explained Murad.
Currently, White Owl, in its portfolio, has Spark – a classic Belgian Wit; Irish Red Ale – which is the only locally-bottled Red Ale; and Apple Cider Ale – that is brewed with Himalayan Apple and Champagne yeast, and is the only locally-bottled Apple Cider available today in India, the company claims.
Along with product launches, White Owl is expanding its footprint in newer geographies like Telangana, which Murad thinks is interesting. He also sees Hyderabad as White Owl’s next market to enter.
Murad will also be focusing on the entire northern region like Punjab, Chandigarh, Haryana, which, he believes, are big blockbusters as there’s no risk of consumer acceptance.
While the focus will be mainly on metros, Murad said that they get “majority of calls from distributors from smaller towns" and that they will start servicing these markets, in terms of distributions, in this calendar year.
But there will be no change in prices when White Owl enters smaller towns, Murad clarified. This is because he thinks that their price point is compelling.
“Even now our craft beer is marginally higher than Kingfisher Ultra, which is around Rs 110. If you want the cheapest beer available, we are not the solution. Even if we expand, we will not change our price point,” he said.
A White Owl 350 ml pint standard bottle beer in a market like Bengaluru will cost in the range of Rs 110 to Rs 130.
Last year, White Owl sold as many as 20,000 pieces a month. With the company having entered more markets, it expects to do better volumes in 2019.
“January to March, we were up five and half times in volumes and revenue than we were during the same time last year. Second quarter was up six times despite the May-June slowdown. So, we are growing but the base is smaller,” he said.
Ask Murad about the impact of slowdown that has affected sectors like auto and FMCG, he said that it is too early to say the beer market saw any impact.
“We are typically sitting in the slow period of the year. In our industry, usually July- August-September is typically considered a slow period. There are vacations, monsoons. Our peak season is October-November-December; then again it slows down in January-February to mid-March,” pointed out Murad.
“In April-May-June, which is normally the peak season, there was disruptions this time due to the general elections,” he added.
However, he said that there is less confidence in the retail side but White Owl has not tangibly seen that in their numbers yet.
According to Murad, there will be a certain impact if general consumption goes down.“So, people might start having beer at home and pay Rs 130 for a White Owl beer instead of going to a pub and paying Rs 250. These patterns might change,” he said.