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Cobra eyes India as S Asia export hub

Cobra Beer plans to transform its Indian arm into an export hub.
PTI | By Sumeet Chatterjee (IANS), Mumbai
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2005 01:08 PM IST

Cobra Beer, promoted by leading India-born British entrepreneur Karan Bilimoria, plans to transform its Indian operations into an export hub for catering to the neighbouring South Asian countries.

The company, which will start production of its beer in India next week, is also planning to set up a green-field project in Hyderabad with a view to significantly boosting its presence in the local market.

Bilimoria, 43, who has carved out a niche for himself by putting his lager on the menu in a slew of Indian restaurants in Britain within a short span of time, currently sells Cobra Beer in India by importing it from Britain and Poland.

"We will start exporting to countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka from the day we start selling in India," Cobra Beer CEO Bilimoria told IANS in an interview.

"Besides boosting our sales in the Indian market, we are also looking at India as an export hub to cater to the neighbouring markets," said the entrepreneur, who is here to participate in a conference for overseas Indians.

Cobra Beer will launch productions in India next week in a licensing agreement with one of India's leading liquor companies, Mount Shivalik Brewery. The beer will be produced at Mount Shivalik's brewery in Rajasthan.

The production agreement will also be gradually extended to Mount Shivalik's facility in Chandigarh. Both the facilities have the capacities to produce one million cases of Cobra Beer per annum.

"We want to create a segment of domestically produced super premium beer," said Bilimoria, adding the company has invested up to $5 million to start production in the domestic market.

Bilimoria had earlier brewed Cobra Beer in Bangalore under a licensing agreement with Mysore Breweries for a period of seven years starting 1990. It, however, later moved its operations to Britain due to logistics and quality issues.

India will be the fourth country globally where Cobra Beer will be produced after Britain, Poland and Holland.

The son of an Indian Army officer and a Cambridge University graduate, Bilimoria is quite bullish about his company's prospects in India where the average consumption of liquor is sharply lower.

India's per person beer consumption is less than one litre per year as compared to 20 litre in China, 50 litre in South Africa, and nearly 100 litre in Britain.

Beer makes up for just five per cent of alcoholic drinks consumption in India as compared to 50 per cent in the developed world.

"If the Indian market is continued to be opened up and consumers are offered greater choice, beer consumption will pick up significantly in the next few years," said Bilimoria, who is also co-chairman of the Indo-British Partnership.

He projected that India's per person beer consumption could increase to 20 litre in the next 15-20 years if the economy continues to expand at a rapid pace, tax rates are rationalised, and availability issues are addressed.

"India will be our biggest market in the world in future," he said. Buoyed by the potential of the market, Bilimoria plans to unveil a green-field project, which could be the acquisition of an existing brewery, in Hyderabad.

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