Healthy products segment will be major driver in alco-bev industry: Prabhtej Singh Bhatia

Bhatia, Founder and CEO, Simba Craft Beer, tells us about the company’s newest launch, foray into the gourmet category, marketing strategies and expectations from the festive season

e4m by Eularie Saldanha
Updated: Oct 22, 2020 9:28 AM
simba craft beer

The alcohol-beverages segment was no exception to the losses incurred by the market owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, even with government relaxations and opening of certain restaurants, the trend of in-home consumption of alcohol has taken flight due to consumer fear. Simba Craft Beer’s barn would be overflowing, since it expects to meet last year’s revenue of around Rs 10-11 crore per month in the last quarter of 2020. The company has almost 30 per cent share in the Indian craft beer category. Prabhtej Singh Bhatia, Founder and CEO, Simba Craft Beer, tells us more about the company’s newest launch, foray into the gourmet category, marketing strategies and expectations for the festive season

 

Excerpts

 

Tell us a little about the losses you incurred owing to the pandemic

Summer for the industry is the most critical season with consumer demands at its peak. It contributes to at least 40 per cent of our overall revenue. However, the initial lockdowns slowly took over summer, adversely impacting sales. Nevertheless, business is now beginning to look up and we are optimistic about surpassing the last year’s numbers in the next couple of months.

The consumer mindset has prevented them from consuming anything cold due to the fear of the virus and other health issues. Tell us more about this

The initial phase of the lockdown witnessed people continuing to stay indoors. This can also be attributed to heightened fear and lack of information. But with the spread of more and more information and awareness campaigns by reliable sources, people are slowly starting to comprehend the situation better and are moving out with utmost precaution. In the next couple of months, this mindset is likely to grow its roots deeper.

What is the marketing strategy that you have adopted in this time? 

Being a new-age brand, Simba has believed in and relied on the strength, impact and reach of digital media, especially social media, to reach our target audience. As one of the leading craft beer brands in India, we are keeping a close watch on emerging consumer trends and their buying behaviour. Aligned with this, we are interacting with our consumers on digital platforms and are communicating in the language they relate to. The pandemic presented us with an opportunity to relook and realign our existing strategies to focus on building the right distribution partners. Consequently, instead of focusing only on marketing, we have taken this time to support retailers in various ways to build mutually beneficial relationships. We are also conceptualizing creative ways of connecting with people and delivering enhanced consumer experiences in the new normal. This led to the inception of ‘Roar from Home’ – where we took our IP ‘Simba Uproar’ to our consumers while encouraging upcoming artistes from around the country to showcase their music talent. We have planned a series of ‘Roar from Home’ gigs with multiple artistes for the upcoming festive season.

 

What are your strongest growth markets and what is your target market-share in the craft beer category? 

 

We currently have an almost 30 per cent share in the craft beer category in India and are evenly spread across India when it comes to growth. However, southern states such as Karnataka and Kerala are doing very well for us and we are focused on strengthening them further.

What is the one factor that differentiates Simba Craft Beer from other beers of its kind? 

One thing that sets Simba apart from others in the segment is the fact that Simba is not a contract manufactured brand. It is one of the first brands to have its own brewery in India that is located at Chhattisgarh. Instead of producing beer in bulk, we prefer to make the beer in small batches, giving enough attention and focus to the recipe of each beer. This process also allows us to keep a better control over the quality of the drink and ingredients end-to-end without compromising on the taste. Additionally, Simba has always been very particular about the product and all our investments have been directed towards building quality products instead of marketing. We have not even invested 10 per cent of what our competition has in marketing. We owe our marketing presence primarily to our consumers.

You are collaborating with home-grown artisanal brands to create innovative merchandise. How is this going to help the brand? 

These collaborations with other home-grown like-minded craft brands will allow Simba to connect with consumers at various touchpoints. We want to reiterate and drive the message of home-grown artisanal premium products. In India, higher quality is generally associated with imported products. Through these collaborations, we want to redefine that concept and expand the definition of quality premium products.

You recently forayed into a new category with the launch of beer-based chocolate bars. What is the kind of consumer response you've seen for the same? 

We launched the ‘Simba Stout Craft Beer Chocolate’ to reach audiences in newer ways and offer diversified high-quality products which they can enjoy at home. As one of the country’s finest homegrown craft beer brands, we rely heavily on high-quality ingredients to offer the best craft beer to our consumers. Paul and Mike share our passion for offering the finest products to its consumers and were therefore played the perfect partner for this collaboration. The chocolates have been very well received by the consumers. In fact, Paul and Mike also mentioned that the chocolates have received an overwhelming response. We hope to keep this momentum going with exciting new launches this festive season.

What are your expectations from the festive season? How eager would consumers be to try gourmet products from a brand that has always been known to produce beer?  

Retail sales during festive season is looking up considering it's been a tough year. Given the current scenario, we have noticed consumers are looking to try out new things to break the monotony. Simba Craft Beer is all geared up for the festive season and will soon launch an array of exciting limited-edition merchandise in a phased manner, thereby further diversifying its offerings. These products will help us expand our reach. Simba Craft Beer is one of the key ingredients around which these products are being built. Hence, with the launch of these new gourmet products, one of the key audiences we will aim to target are in fact beer consumers.

How do you anticipate the alcohol-beverages category to be like, five years down the line? 

Slowly and steadily there has been an increased growth in lower alcohol level and healthy products segment in the alcohol-beverages industry aimed towards the health-conscious consumers. These two trends will be major drivers in the upcoming years in the alco-bev industry.

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