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How The Russia-Ukraine Conflict Inspired Two Kerala Natives To Create ‘Malayali’ Beer In Poland

In conversation with Chandramohan Nallur, Business Owner at Malayali Beer. Chandramohan talks about his idea behind launching Malayali Beer in Poland and shares his goals and objectives for the brand.

Nallur, who grew up in Palakkad and studied business administration in Spain, says he learned a lot about sales and people management while bartending and managing an Irish bar off Barcelona’s buzzing Las Ramblas boulevard. Sargheve, Nallur’s business partner is a beer enthusiast whereas Nallur is a teetotaller. But his work at the pub made him fall in love with the trade. He is a brand-building, marketing and sales guy who loves selling alcohol.

Nallur and Sargheve launched the beer in November last year, with a logo inspired by Kathakali headgear and the Rayban sunglasses worn by Malayalam actor Mohanlal in the hit 1990s film Spadikam. The label also included memorable lines from popular Malayalam films.

Hi, Can you tell us about your journey in the beer space? Where did your passion for beer come from?

It’s a great month to write about it. My first part-time job during my college days in Spain in 2007 Feb started at an Irish Pub, Oharas just off Las Ramblas. A 22-year-old starting a pub who doesn’t have a clue about alcohol. Till today I have never had a drop of alcohol. But that work at the pub made me fall in love with the trade. I loved selling alcohol, making cocktails and having interesting conversations with the customers. A few years passed, and I was back in Barcelona with a bar of my own, Tequila 44, with few friends, but I had to wind operations during the Catalan independence movement as business went in for a toss. Usually, the saying is third time lucky. But, this time, ending up with a beer brand was more of an accident. As you would have read in many news broadcasts already, it was purely out of helping out clients and ended up creating a brand. The passion side was more for Sargheve than me, I am more the brand-building, marketing and sales guy. I love selling and love selling alcohol.

What was your original idea behind launching Malayali Beer?

As mentioned, we reached the beverage space by accident and it was lager than we made from the flakes, so when it came to launching our brand, we wanted something which would go with any food and can be had on any occasion and easy to drink larger. Because usually the craft beers in the market, The Komban in the UK, Kalikut in Poland all were merely following what Cobra had done, a beer for a curry. We didn’t want to restrict ourselves to that space, something people relate to Indian restaurants or curry, but rather a lager which could be had watching football at home or the beach during the summers.So more in the international outlook, rather than country-specific. And as for the name, it’s more to do with emotion. During Ukraine- Russian war and operation Ganga, which followed, it was mostly Keralites among the Indian Diaspora who came to help the government machinery during the crisis from day one till the last student from Sumy flew back safely to India. I was at the forefront of the whole operation and was one among those chosen to have a video call with PM himself. Seeing the selfless work of all the Mallu volunteers, I had the idea of naming it Malayali, if the word was trademarkable, which it was. That’s how “Malayali” came to life.

The label looks quite intriguing. Tell us more about it.

The label was the idea of Sargheve, and he worked closely with a Kochi-based company Cygnifiq who advised on design. They came with many concepts but centred around symbols that relate to “Malayali”. We liked the ray-bans glass moustache idea, as it had Mohanlal and the Kathakali ornament as a headgear which seemed great. We tried to mock up bottles and did an online study to see the interest, which worked. So we went ahead with it.

What is unique about your beer that makes it stand out in the market?

The uniqueness of the lager market is predominantly wheat and rye-based, not rice-based. So ours being a rice-based lager is making us stand out. The aftertaste seems to have clicked. I think the combination of Polish Hops and Indian rice created the smoothest lager that was born.

Can you take us through the production process? 

The recipe is something we don’t want to give out, but the only thing is the usual process of beer, but the combination of rice with hops and the percentage of hops differing from a regular wheat beer. 

What are your goals and objectives for Malayali Beer this year?

We would love to be in all the Eu markets, at least the restaurant and eventually the retail end. And also the middle East and the Indian market.

How are you leveraging social media for your business?

Predominantly Instagram and Facebook started slow, the reason, being it is a two-staff company now. We never anticipated the initial traction of business which we are seeing. We are going to sign an agreement with Dot n Pixel, the social media advertising company of the year in Poland to handle our social side, and then who is better socially than the customers themselves. We bank on their feedback, especially on social media.

Any upcoming releases? 

We are sticking to lager but, yes, stronger versions of the same. Now it’s Malayali- Extralight and next will be Malayali Strong, a 6.8% alc vol one and the Malayali super strong 8,8% al vol one.

What do you think about the evolution of the Indian Beer Market? Are you planning to market your beer in the Indian market anytime soon?

Bira’s 91 story is an inspiration and has clearly displayed that the Indian market has evolved out of the usual KingFisher crowd. And plans, yes, we are looking into local partners to partner with to bring the brand to India. 

Lastly, What one piece of advice you would like to give someone who wants to start a beer brand? 

We are too young in this market to advise anyone, but if anyone wants to start a brand, try not to become too specific but, stay open so that you have more space to play and explore. 


Header Image: Sargheve and Chandramohan Nallur, Buisness Owners at Malayali Beer