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Karan Bilimoria to expand Cobra beer operations

The UK-based Indian plans to set up breweries at an investment of $20 mn.

india Updated: Apr 13, 2007 11:27 IST

After registering sales of one million cases of Cobra beer in India, London-based Lord Karan Bilimoria is setting up two new breweries in the country at an investment of $20 million and entering the wine business.

The group has also finalised plans to launch the stronger version of Cobra beer in India from this summer under the King Cobra brand after the soft launch in November last year proved to be a success.

"We were initially planning one greenfield brewery in Hyderabad, which happens to be my birthplace.

But it looks like we will have one in the north up and running before that," Bilimoria, a chartered accountant by training, said.

"If we start construction, say by June or so, the new unit in one of the northern states, which I cannot disclose now, will be ready before next summer. We will, of course, also build the proposed brewery in Hyderabad," he added.

Last month, Cobra beer had added another two breweries under contract licenses - one in Uttar Pradesh on the outskirts of the national capital and the other in Patna in Bihar, to take the installed capacity to four million cases.

Prior to this, the company was brewing from two locations in Goa and Rajasthan and had planned the expansion after the target of logging one million cases in India was achieved a year ahead of target.

"We already serve 12 states and we intend to have a pan Indian presence in the months to come."

Bilimoria, who was nominated to Britain's House of Lords last year, said King Cobra was doing well in Britain and felt the same success can be replicated in India.

"Seventy per cent of the Indian market is for strong beer."

Speaking about his plans to enter the Indian wine industry, Bilimoria said his group was producing 10 varieties of reds, whites and rose from Spain, France and South Africa.

"We will launch one white and one red in India in October with locally sourced grapes. Both these wines will be linked to our global General Bilimoria brand. We are initially targeting 30,000 cases," he said.

Bilimoria, who is also co-chair of the Indo-British Partnership Network launched by the two governments a few years ago, said he saw a huge potential for wines in India and hoped the high duty structure would be rationalised.

"Even in Britain, which is one of the most expensive places, wine can sell for as low as three pounds - less than Rs.250. I see no reason why it should not sell for the same or even lower price in India," Bilimoria said.

"A growing wine industry will prove good for Indian agriculture and farmers."

First Published: Apr 13, 2007 11:14 IST