It’s the social media, accessibility, awareness and the onset of a new mindset that has played a big part in fostering the growth of microbreweries in India, says Ironhill India Founder Teja Chekuri
After completing his degree in MS – Electrical and Electronics Engineering at Gannon University, Teja Chekuri worked in various startups and IT companies. He started his entrepreneurial journey with Northface Holdings as the Managing Director in 2012 and invested in Axlr Data Private Limited. But he kept coming back to food – his first love. He co-founded the Godavari Group of Restaurants in the US and continued to explore more in the segment. Teja then looked at Indian mixes and unique spices that can be added to the brews to bring about an interesting experience for beer connoisseurs.
That’s how Ironhill India came about. Since its launch, the brand has established multiple footprints at a rapid pace under his leadership. His vision is to keep bringing new concepts of food and brews to food lovers everywhere. With Ironhill, he is now focusing on India to create a fabulous concept where you can enjoy authentic varieties of craft beer served with good food in a great ambiance. Speaking to Bizz Buzz exclusively, Teja Chekuri, Founder and Managing Partner, Ironhill India, narrates the Ironhill growth story and the way forward.
Beer industry has all along been very special in India, given the climatic conditions and consumer preferences. How is the beer business growing in India?
Yes, for the tropical climate that we face, beer should be the drink of choice for consumers. However, the alco-bev segment was dominated by spirits like whisky, rum, among others, in India. With changing demographics and psychographics however, that is changing, and beer is becoming the go-to drink for many. The beer industry is projected to grow at a steady clip of over 10 per cent CAGR and cross the 600 billion marks in the next 3 to 5 years, with the craft beer industry that account for about 2-3 per cent market share, projected to grow at a similar pace.
It is said that the demand for craft beer is paving the way for microbreweries in India. What is your take on this?
In my opinion the demand for craft beer was created by the notable first movers in the microbrewery segment. As awareness grew, the idea of craft beer as a drink of choice caught on and that created a critical mass for more microbreweries to follow suit and tap into the market. One wouldn’t have been possible without the other, so it is far more synchronous in my opinion.
Any other reasons that you would like to mention, which are fostering the growth of microbrewery business in India?
A few years back, we saw a revolution with the opening of plethora of coffee shops, which went on to become a hub of culture, art, discussions- which marked the onset of a vibrant culture. The same can be observed with microbreweries now. The awareness about craft beer through digital media has played a big part and as it has gotten accepted as a mainstream drink, microbreweries have become a melting pot of culture, arts, innovations and discussions, a new age café, if I may say so. So, it’s the social media, the accessibility, the awareness and the onset of a new mindset that has played a big part in fostering the growth of microbreweries in India.
How are microbreweries changing the face of restaurant business in India?
Microbreweries are attracting a new set of consumers who are well read, well aware and open to newer experiences. In fact, these new age consumers demand to be given eclectic experience, as compared to the tried and tested- ‘safe’ choices of the previous generation. This has forced restaurants to have a re-look at their offerings, their service standards and other value adds to entice consumers, all these have ushered in an era of innovation and out of box thinking on the part of restaurants.
How many microbreweries do you have at present? How many more would you add over the next 2-3 years?
While we have 7 microbreweries at present, we have a five year plan where-in we hope to set up at least 30 more outlets pan India
When are you planning to emerge as a pan India player?
The plan is in the works, and we hope to achieve this mission within the next five years.
What is your overall current capacity? How are you planning to ramp up?
If we consider all Ironhill outlets and Prost, we brew a cumulative 80,000 litres a month. Our existing capacity is more than enough to service our current footfalls because we are more or less running at full steam across the board. Any new capacity expansion will be with respect to new outlets and the demand that we forecast at these new locations.
How many flavours do you currently offer? How many more would you like to add, going forward?
We have at least 6 to 7 types of beer on tap along with a cider or two, at any given time. We launch a couple of new flavours every month based on the season, the availability of raw materials and the consumer preferences. We plan to do that consistently so that our consumers are exposed to newer styles of beer every month.
Would you propose expansion come through company owned outlets only or through franchise as well?
We have worked on a model that suits our expansion objectives. Our current strategy employs a FOFO i.e., a franchise owned franchise operated model. However, we are now working on a FOCO i.e., a franchise owned company operated model in order to run the business efficiently while maintaining quality, enhancing product innovation, sand driving marketing initiatives.
What is the overall investment that you will have to pump in to translate the expansion plan into reality? How do you raise the funds?
As I said earlier, we have a franchise model with a built-in component that generates revenue for us. Investments can vary from location to location, so it is usually customized as per requirements.
Tell us something about your overall group business in India and abroad for restaurants and microbreweries?
Apart from being one of the fastest growing chain of microbreweries in India, we are also into multiple F&B formats – from cafe’s, full sized restaurants to microbreweries. We are currently operating in India, Canada and US, and have a goal of entering newer markets and countries in due course.