Arundeep Singla first saw local breweries and pub scenes as a student in Australia. It left an indelible mark on him, and he was inspired to bring this culture back home by building an alco-beverage company in India.
Belonging to a non-entrepreneurial family, with a professor father and a homemaker mother, this was a whole new territory to explore for the budding entrepreneur.
The 37-year-old, who has a master’s degree in finance, began his entrepreneurial journey in 2010 when he established Rock and Storm Distilleries—an alcoholic beverage company that he later sold to his partner.
While southern India, especially Bengaluru, had a few companies building distilleries in the 2010s, north India was yet to embrace the brewery culture.
A few years later, Arundeep founded The Brew Estate in 2016, which, according to him, is the first microbrewery established in Chandigarh. He used his earnings from his prior businesses to make the initial investment.
In 2020, he established the Alcostar Group—the parent company of The Brew Estate—which owns and operates 12 microbrewery outlets in four states: Punjab, Delhi, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh.
Arundeep, the Chairman and Managing Director of the Alcostar Group, aims to make it India’s largest microbrewery chain, with plans to open nearly 15 more pubs in the coming months.
The company also operates The Liquor Estate—boutique alcohol outlets—in Chandigarh and Punjab to provide people, especially women buyers, with a welcoming and classy environment to purchase alcohol.
During the COVID pandemic when things went downhill for the craft beer industry in India, Arundeep decided to get into the manufacturing and distributing of liquor.
Alcostar now has a diverse inventory of IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor) and international brands.
In FY20, Alcostar Group generated Rs 700 crore in revenue, which grew to Rs 800 crore in FY21. The number has risen to Rs 1,000 crore for the current fiscal year, as per data provided by the company.
According to a report by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), the Indian alco-beverage industry had a projected market value of $52.5 billion in 2020. The industry is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 6.8% between 2020-2023.
Alcostar’s liquor brands
Alcostar manufactures and imports liquor from different parts of the world. “We began with Indian brands, but we were quick to learn that people preferred imported foreign liquor, so we decided to launch another vertical for foreign liquor distribution,” Arundeep explains.
The company’s portfolio includes a wide range of imported brands from several countries, including Radio Boka and Gran Pasas from Spain, Ovation Spumante and Shortwood from South Africa, Stock from Poland, Le Paradou and Monsieur De Bordeaux from France, and Barrister from Russia, across different categories like wine, vodka, gin, and rum.
Talking about the liquor Alcostar manufactures, the entrepreneur says, “We create premium IMFL brands and sell them at a very affordable price, which fostered our growth.”
“We use high-quality scotch blended in Scotland. Our brand has a really strong presentation. You get a taste of luxury,” he adds.
Sherry Platinum, Kiev, Royal General, and Old Chief Rum are some of Alcostar’s brands. “You get Blenders Pride-like quality at a price comparable to Royal Stag,” he says.
Brewing success with Brew Estate
Alcostar offers around 80 different beer flavours, including fruity varieties like kiwi, apple, strawberry, and guava. As people prefer seasonal varieties, Alcostar’s pubs regularly add new flavours to their menus.
In the early years, The Brew Estate expanded rapidly, adding seven outlets in three years. According to Arundeep, the company has a first-mover advantage over upcoming breweries.
It has a tie-up with Bestmalz in Germany, which gives access to a steady supply of high-quality malt for its beers. Alcostar uses American hops and German malt for its brewery operation.
The beer sector in India, banking on millennials’ growing preference for alcohol at events, is rising.
According to a report by IMARC, the Indian beer market reached Rs 350 billion in 2021, and is expected to reach Rs 580 billion by 2027, exhibiting a CAGR of 8.3% during 2022-2027.
This month, The Brew Estate plans to launch two more outlets in India in Kullu and Kharar. Moreover, it will shortly launch its first international outlet in Vancouver, Canada.
For Arundeep, the journey had many challenges. His main pub was shut in 2018 when Supreme Court banned hotels and restaurants along the highways to serve alcohol.
“We had plans of expanding to other parts of India, but that got delayed because of COVID,” says Arundeep.
The company has plans of expanding to the western and eastern parts of India in the coming years, adding that vendors, landlords, and his team supported the business during the pandemic.
Excise laws in India have also been one of the challenges for the company as they are not uniform. “It is good that the government is now supporting microbreweries because of low alcohol drinks,” says Arundeep.
By 2025, Arundeep hopes for The Brew Estate to have 30 outlets. He has international expansion in mind. The company has already begun to expand in Canada; next up is the US market.
The company also wants to expand the number of liquor brands it offers. It is currently working to acquire the rights to some of the most popular wines in the world.