While curiously consuming the impressive Simba Stout beer, brewed in Central India, a refreshing possibility came to mind. Although enjoying a thriving consumption culture, India has been unable to produce a genuinely homegrown, mainstream consumer brand that possesses a global impact comparable to, say, our IT industry. For many promising reasons, the category of craft beer, as a cumulative, can earn this accolade for our country, appealing uniquely to the universal consumer.
The new-age beers have all been developed on a brand-first principle, the finest learning from integrated experience development applied for launch. Bira 91 is a fine case, digitising national identity while being sternly committed to best-in-class quality, leading to a high quality of following. The same holds true for Simba and White Rhino, the identities carefully designed to be eclectic and involving, not the stereotypical legacy-liquor-label. What’s more, they taste good and reasonably competitive with the better beers you will encounter overseas, an important criterion for qualification. Most importantly, they are all rooted in popular culture, at one level as an influence and eventually as a contribution.
What makes the beer story even more compelling is its remarkable antecedents as a category; contemporary, lively, youthful and reasonably healthy. In the category of alcoholic beverages, it is a cheerful moderate, giving the user a good time without the irresponsible intake of potency. As a lifestyle cue, its role is time-tested, interesting to the football fan and the girl gang, an enabler of conversations and bonding. Over time, it has emerged as a lifestyle icon, the brands we consume defining a considerable part of our character. Almost like a United Nations of beverages, it does not inspire rigid loyalty to an individual, instead compels us to try newer variants at every opportunity, especially when we travel. Even the most vehement fan of Heineken will insist on a Cambodian or Croatian brew when in that land, as beer is a part of local cultural experiences, a flavour of the geography and attitudes. Which is exactly why, this can be an opportunity for India, our cultural diversity extending to brewed indulgences, quite like Chicken Tikka Masala.
For this to happen, we need to develop a Beer Brand Council, involving governmental and private-sector experts to be a vital pillar of Make in India, with the potential for global brand patronage. As beer is a derivative of culture, especially craft beer, the task of this body will be to identify unique sensorial zones that can lead to unique beers, usually regional and sometimes connected to an experience. You can well imagine the ‘Bangla’ lager beer, with hues of sweetness like the rosogulla, or perhaps the ‘Konark’ or ‘Khajuraho’ stout, bearing subtle traces of erotica in every sip, like the magnificent carvings. Kashmir and Himachal will lead to flowing spring-like brews, clean and clear, while the backwaters of Kerala will inspire a more eclectic taste, relaxed yet definite.
The Qutub Minar brew can signify the sense of elevation and the Taj Mahal will be the most masterful of every creation, super-premium and wine-like in texture, the ultimate India experience. If our sensibilities are mature, one can imagine a craft beer from Santiniketan, the romance of the poet’s creations extending to an intellectual formation, like some of the complicated Russian beers. IPL can have its own limited-edition brew, sparkling and scintillating, while the cities can stand for their own opinion. Mumbai, the all-inclusive concoction, while Chennai infusing some local flavours in its chosen formula and Bangalore choosing to remain universal, in deference to its pioneering stature. We cannot forget the opportunities that exist in Rajasthan, quite like Jaisalmer the perfume, every fort city bearing sufficient uniqueness to have their own brews, like every town in Germany. In a matter of years, India can become a global beer destination, the finest of the piece effortlessly arriving in global shelves, powered by appreciative word-of-pint.
For all this to happen, the Beer Brand Council must first identify a set of opportunities, on the lines of the above, allotting them to competent brewers almost as franchisees. A panel of world-class brew-masters will work with gastronomes in every area to identify the unique flavours, both as product or essence, using them in the development of the brews. Finest branding minds in the nation will collaborate from stage zero to build integrated experiences, which are smart, rooted and true-blue digital citizens. Then the amplification programme where experiences are converted rapidly to endorsement, through digital means, by all who partake of these beers. All working in tandem to make India a global beer destination, a scalable cult that is sustainable unlike its para-religious predecessors.
In case you are wondering, the manufacturing expertise for achieving the above thrives in India, as does a proven streak of innovation in gastronomy which can easily extend to brewing. What also exists is the culture of branding, currently applied successfully for willing candidates across every conceivable category. All we now need is the unification of a few empowered, sensible and motivated minds to create India’s first-ever universal consumer-brand franchise or rather, movement.
(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: email@example.com)
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