After years of relegating to the sidelines, the Indian alcobev industry is finally enjoying its moment in the sun. Whether gin, whiskey or beer – there is a homegrown brew to suit everyone’s tastes and preferences.
Proost Beer helmed by the Delhi-based Grano69 Beverages is a prime example. Founded by Vijay P. Sharma and Tarun Bhargava in October 2017, this alcobev brand recently caught the eye of investors and raised $360,000 in seed funding from Dev Punj of Chimes Group and Dauble from Singapore.
“Grano69 Beverages was launched with the mission of acquainting Indian consumers with the authentic taste of freshly brewed quality beer. We wanted to create products the Indian consumer would enjoy to an extent that would make us their preferred alcobev brand,” the founders share in a chat with YS Weekender.
Vijay, the ex-CEO of Punj Lloyd Global Offshore Business, has experience of 35 years of scaling companies from the ground up. Tarun has worked at IBM and AON and also co-founded Faagio.com. And, each of them brought a specific skillset on board when they decided to join hands for their new venture Grano69.
“The idea arose due to the absence of good quality beer at an affordable price in the country. With the incumbents only offering age-old brews, Grano69 decided to bring to the Indian consumers a mix of European tastes by picking and choosing the best from each country, such as Belgian White Ale, German Lager, and Spanish Strong Pilsner,” shares Vijay.
Claiming its superior quality as its USP, the company thrives on maintaining the highest standards at every step of beer production — right from choosing the raw materials to the packaging of the product.
Tarun shares, “Up until recently, the Indian consumer only had access to sub-standard products where
beer is concerned. The idea is to acquaint the Indian consumer with quality brews.”
At present, Grano69 operates on a contract manufacturing model, and the style and taste of each variant differ. Proost White Ale comes from Menen in Belgium, Proost Lager from Valencia in Spain, and Proost Strong is made in Punjab, India.
The founders share the name Proost was decided after a lot of deliberation. “We went back and forth a lot. Then we noticed that our Master Brewer, who is a Dutch national, used to sign off his emails with ‘Proost’, which means ‘Cheers’, and is widely used in a lot of European countries. The name struck a chord with us as it carried all the qualities we were looking for,” they say with a smile.
Headquartered in Delhi, the Grano69 team comprises the founders and five people in key positions who manage Operations, Finance, Accounts and Sales. The larger workforce consists of 16 people.
“The company is geared up for launching in states like Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Chandigarh in the coming financial year. We are also studying the markets for expansion in Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, and Goa, and hope to launch after our next round of funding,” says Vijay.
The product line-up:
Currently, Grano69 has three variants of beer on offer. The first of these is the Proost White Ale — a Belgian wheat beer with notes of coriander and orange. Next is the Proost Lager, a mild lager beer that is thin and crisp on the palate and matches well with spicy Indian food.
Proost Strong — specially curated for the Indian palate — is the ideal beer to beat the summer heat and is favoured by those who enjoy an extra hit without the extreme bitterness.
Proost beers are currently available in Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab. Due to different excise policies across various states, the prices of the beers vary according to where they are purchased. These prices range from Rs 95 – Rs 140 across various markets.
Word about the brand is mostly spread through its social media presence on Instagram and Facebook through its handle @proost69. Its website also provides a detailed insight into its offerings.
“We are also actively involved in hosting house party events, which enables organic outreach for our beers through word of mouth. This method constantly results in more sales at the retail vends,” says Tarun.
Grano69’s Belgian Wheat Ale and Mild Lager was launched in 2018. The Strong Beer was launched in 2019 and was initially imported from Spain. It instantly became a crowd favourite, leading the company to manufacture it domestically in Punjab. The latest addition to the repertoire is the Domestic Strong Beer, launched in July 2021.
Growth and more:
According to the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), India is one of the fastest-growing alcoholic beverages markets globally, with an estimated market size of $52.5 (about Rs 3.9 lakh crore). This may be the reason for the success of Grano69 Beverages. The founders began with a personal investment of Rs 3.35 crore. In its first year of operations, the company recorded a revenue of Rs 76.7 lakh. It recorded Rs 3.25 crore and Rs 4.20 crore in the years thereafter.
The company is targeting a revenue of over Rs 9 crore in the current financial year. However, it is prepared for these numbers to change with the onset of new COVID-19 restrictions.
“Our company has managed to maintain steady growth despite the adverse impact on sales due to COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns. We have also secured our first seed round funding in December 2021… The funds shall be utilised in expanding our reach to other states and for hiring more people,” explains Vijay.
Initially, the company faced a major roadblock dealing with stringent excise policies — different in each state and Union Territory. Apart from the lack of uniformity, these policies tend to change every year, making it difficult to strategise for the future. However, the founders also believe these challenges have made them more agile and prepared for any situation with contingency plans.
“Another major challenge we faced was the uncertainty of the lockdown periods due to COVID-19. As a result of these restrictions, the consumption pattern became erratic and impacted our early-stage growth,” says Tarun with candour.
Based on the positive feedback Grano69 has received for its beers, especially Domestic Strong Beer, and taking into account the demand from the market, the company is hopeful of shifting the production of its Lager Beers to India too in the coming future.