Bira 91 saw it all from the heights of attracting demand for its specialty beers, to the lows of reaching a supply crunch before winning favor again. If it’s lunch or an outing with friends, beer was the traditional conversation accompaniment. Earlier it was Kingfisher or Millers and then brands like Heineken, Budweiser, and Corona found favor, as Indians developed a taste for finer stuff. And there was craft beer.
Interestingly, one would think that foreign brands will fill the void, but that’s where the Bira 91 shot at popularity. The local beer has gained significant fans in a relatively short time, as one friend put it, “Bira had me rediscover my passion for beer!
The word Bira does not stand for anything, but colloquially it is how a Punjabi would call his brother and 91 represents the country code of India.
The reverse B on the logo reflects an irreverent spirit. The monkey mascot was designed to provide the brand with a playful identity and consider the urban millennial as the main customer of Bira 91.
A graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Ankur founded a healthcare business in 2002 and came to India after operating it for five years. As a Retail Director, he joined Reliance Fresh here. In 2009, a passion for beer made him start Cerana Beverages, which imported beers from all over the world.
Some of the beers which he imported included Erdinger, Schneider Weisse, Chimay, Belgian Duvel, and New York’s Brooklyn Lager. “I’d bring all those beers to India because I wanted to find out what type of beer works with the Indian customer,” Ankur says. He began importing 25-30 brands which he was going to sell in hotels and restaurants.
The Indian beer market is primarily dominated by the likes of Kingfisher, Budweiser, Kalyani, and other local brands. A Mint newspaper study reports that 85 percent of the beer industry is dominated by the big beer industry.
Bira focuses on mild beers as lighter beers are favored by its team of figured urban consumers. The company began with two styles of beer – a pilsner in European style, similar to a lager, based on Belgian beers with citrus and cilantro notes. It now features five Bira variants on the market.
Bira 91 made its International debut at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City where it was the beer’s chief sponsor. It claims to be India’s first handcraft beer to be sold in New York.
Bira 91 created Bira 91 Hot Stuff in 2017, an eight-episode travelogue that covers India’s hottest chillis and cuisines. The business also worked with Saavn on the launch of a Bira 91 Hip Hop Channel on Saavn.
In 2016, Bira 91 funded the Global Citizen Festival, in addition to the Tribeca Film Festival. Bira 91 FreeFlow, a 3-city tour with hip-hop artist Lady Leshurr, also took place in India.
The company organized its first owned on-ground event in 2018 – Bira 91 April Fools’ Fest in New Delhi (the 91st day of the year on 1 April).
In May 2018, at United Nations global headquarters in New York, Bira 91 was the beer for May.
Bira 91 is available in India, the USA, the UK and Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, and the UAE as of June 2018.
Bira 91 confirmed its global support for the Cricket World Cup and numerous other ICC events in November 2018. In 2018, the company hosted its first owned on-ground event-the Bira 91 April Fools Fest in New Delhi (the 91st day of the year being 1 April).
Ankur Jain was raising $1.5 million from a group of friends when he launched B9 Beverages Pvt. Ltd. Ltd .. B9 Beverages Pvt Ltd received its first round of funding from Sequoia Capital (which was Sequoia’s first investment in the Alcohol Beverage segment) in January 2016, with $6 million (INR. 40 Crore). Angel investors from India, such as Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal (Co-founders-Snapdeal), Deepinder Goyal (Zomato), Ashish Dhawan (ChrysCapital), and Mayank Singhal also participated in this Series A funding.
In 2018, Sofina, a Belgian family-owned fund and its current investors raised an additional $50 million.
In May 2019, Bira 91 raised the funding of $4.3M from Sixth Sense Ventures in its Pre-Series C round.