The Beer Café

The Beer Café

Bringing in a Beer revolution in India

Rahul Singh

Founder & CEO, The Beer Café

BEER IS THE WAY

The Beer Café was conceptualized by Rahul Singh when he noticed a perceptible shift in customer taste, especially amongst young Indian consumers. Aiming to redefine the ‘beering’ experience of India, The Beer Café has brought together two varied cultures- of dingy, seedy nightclubs and brightly-lit, café-like vibes under one roof. Elevating drinking experience, The Beer Café is a delight for Indian beer lovers. It is the largest, fastest-growing, and the most profitable alco-beverage service brand in India.

The Beer Café was founded in 2012 with a vision to stimulate communities towards a fun and responsible drinking culture. Ever since its opening, they have been on the path of innovation and upgradation. Responsible for introducing India’s first PYOB (Pour Your Own Beer) wall in two of its outlets in New Delhi. The Beer Café offers a co-working solution to emerging entrepreneurs under a concept labelled Breworks. The Brand also introduced a line of merchandise comprising over 30 branded products-spanning across categories such as gaming, gadgets, décor, glassware, personal and office products. Allowing customers to make the use of every bill, the Beer Café App enables them to earn loyalty points called ‘Brewmiles’ which they can use later on another visit. So, what’s left to conquer in the near future? The brand is looking to enhance its pan-India footprint and further consolidate its position as the category leader in the $7.1 billion Indian beer market, and aiming to add to its current array of 35 outlets across 12 cities, targeting 150 operational outlets by 2022. They have the largest range of beer in India under one roof; its outlets pour beers from nearly 50 brands from 20 countries including premium brews like Hoegaarden, Erdinger, Erdinger Dunkel, Chimay, and Witlinger.

Sneha Nair, BW in conversation with Rahul Singh.

DO YOU THINK MILLENNIALS DRINK MORE BEER THAN THE EARLIER GENERATION? IS THE BEER – SPORTS COMBINATION CONSIDERED COOL?

The beer culture has grown exponentially given that India has a large young population, changing demographics, increased disposable incomes, urbanization and the fact that eating out is no more limited to festivals or celebrations, it is an occasion by itself. Drinking is no longer a social taboo. Furthermore, urban Indians are well travelled and acquainted with different global cultures. They are becoming aware of the varieties of beer available and are demanding a wider choice.

We, at The Beer Café are determined to make a dent by providing freedom of choice with the largest selection of brands under one roof. Beer is an age-old unifier; it brings people together to share their common interests. And nothing ignites a stronger bond than cheering for your favorite team. It’s a situation next to none, for the things you love – beer and sports.

WITH THE TAXATION RATES ON BEER BEING HIGH, AND THE ADDITIONAL DIKTAT OF NO SALE OF ALCOHOL WITHIN 500 METRES OF HIGHWAYS, IS IMPACT ON THE BEER INDUSTRY LIKELY?

The industry is highly taxed and regulated and struggles with multiplicity of taxes and lack of uniformity in the regulations, varying from state to state. It is also burdened with unjustified pricing of its products. Beer, although contains less alcohol, is taxed in the same manner as strong spirits which in turn makes beer expensive for the end user.

The Supreme Court’s order to shut down establishments selling and serving liquor within 500 metres of national and state highways came as a serious blow. There’s a difference between a liquor vend and a restaurant serving liquor in a controlled environment. A lot of F&B’s came under this blanket leading to serious chaos amongst employees fearing loss of jobs, besides the Industry’s loss of investment. Consumers are also affected, as their options of going out is getting limited. Such rulings and regressive regulations have a negative impact on the tourism and hospitality industry.

A STATE MINISTER HAS SAID THAT DRINKING BEER IS GOOD FOR HEALTH. DO YOU ADVOCATE THAT THE INDUSTRY SHOULD PROMOTE BEER DRINKING SIMILAR TO WHAT TEA, COFFEE INDUSTRIES HAD DONE MORE THAN A DECADE AGO?

It is in the interest of community at large to wean off people from hard liquor to low content alcoholic beverages such as wine and beer.

Being an intoxicating beverage, regulations are important. Without checks and balances, there would be a social crisis. The taxes/levies are definitely a dampener. Being a low on alcohol beverage, beer should not be taxed in the same lines as hard liquor. If there’s 5% alcohol in beer and the balance 95% is water, why would the tax be same as for a whisky – which is 50% alcohol. WHO recommends countries to wean people away from hard liquor and move towards healthier alternatives like beer and wine. The regulatory authorities in India should align themselves to prevalent global standards.

The government has to encourage responsible drinking habits while maximizing the revenues so that resources can be used to finance development activities of the state.

YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY HAS BEEN A ROLLER COASTER RIDE, DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR STRUGGLING ENTREPRENEURS?

Instead of simply providing “improved” versions of existing products, focus on addressing unmet customer needs. The former approach will likely kill your venture, because products die, but customer needs persist. The point is not to make a better mousetrap, but to find the best way to get rid of the mouse. Find the gap and create a unique offering to cater to that audience.

DO WHAT YOU ENJOY AND REMEMBER, IT IS ALL ABOUT CUSTOMERS.

  • Factor in customer feedback
  • Build a rock-solid reputation and project a positive business image
  • Design your workspace for success and have a passionate team
  • Follow the rule of 3 R’s – rigor, rigor, rigor

WHAT IS THE IMPACT ON BEER CAFÉ WITH THE STEADY RISE IN MICRO-BREWERIES?

There is immense potential for the market to grow. It creates an opportunity for Indian entrepreneurs to create a globally established segment in our own country. The large commercial breweries here are only capable of making lager style of beer and focus only on commercial brands. Either they are owned by Beer companies or produce for themselves. Therefore, specialty or craft beers (which are mainly ales) can only be produced in a mini or microbrewery. From coffee, imbued stouts to summer special mango infused beers, microbreweries are always experimenting with their recipes giving beer enthusiasts a chance to savour some unique flavours.

The Brewpubs in states of Haryana, Punjab, Karnataka and Maharashtra all put together would provide beer lovers a chance to try beer variants. Commercial beers don’t experiment much as their focus is on retail sales (vends) and the cost of a new variant/brand is extremely high. Craft beers coming in from Europe have challenges of high import duties (111%) and state levies, making them overpriced. So, Brewpubs provide a perfect bridge of VFM (value for money) option with a truly global palate.

TALK TO US ABOUT YOUR EARLIER BUSINESSES PRIOR TO BEER CAFÉ?

I chose to be in the textile field and did my Engineering in textiles. It took 20 years of working as a professional in lifestyle and sportswear companies to realize that I am destined to be an entrepreneur. I strongly believe that destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice.

It was quite a journey from being the sole licensee of the Greg Norman Collection in India to launching GOLFWORX- India’s first Indoor Golf concept club. It was during my Golfworx days I realized that socializing has become an inescapable phenomenon and people just love to go out. The idea of Beer Cafe clicked and I pursued to turn it into reality.

Instead of simply providing “improved” versions of existing products, focus on addressing unmet customer needs. The former approach will likely kill your venture, because products die, but customer needs persist. The point is not to make a better mousetrap, but to find the best way to get rid of the mouse. Find the gap and create a unique offering to cater to that audience.

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