India’s White Rhino craft beer sets sights on UK market

New Delhi: About 18 months after Ishaan Puri founded White Rhino Brewing Co., the New Delhi-based company is set to take its craft beer White Rhino to the UK—one of world’s most mature beer markets.

“UK is a mature market for good quality craft beers. We have undergone a massive market study, testing before deciding to enter the UK market. We will have limited presence across selected pubs in London, Manchester and Leeds,” said Puri, founder and director, White Rhino Brewing Co.

Although promotion and advertising of alcoholic beverages is permitted in the UK, Puri said he would primarily bank on word-of-mouth—a strategy that worked in favour for the brand in India—to crack the UK market. The UK market offers around 11,000 beer choices including one-off specials and seasonal beers, and houses more than 53,000 pubs of which more than 37,000 sells ale variant of beer.

The company will initially export Lager and India Pale Ale to the UK. For distribution, White Rhino has partnered with West Yorkshire-based James Clay, an independent importer and distributor of specialist beers, that has been in the business for more than 30 years and has a strong network of restaurants, pubs and bars in the UK market.

For the UK market, White Rhino will be produced in India and exported, said Puri. “We don’t have any plans to produce there. We’ll stick to exports. It may increase the cost a bit. But we’ll have complete control over quality,” he added. The company produces beer at its own brewery at Malanpur, a city in Madhya Pradesh’s Chambal region.

However, White Rhino has got a different packaging for the UK market. “We changed it based on market response. The branding and packaging is more vibrant and colourful compared to what we have in India. We may look at launching limited editions with the UK packaging in India as well,” Puri said. In the UK market, White Rhino is priced at par with American craft beers that are available in the region.

While White Rhino may be the first craft beer from India to enter the UK market, other India beer brands that have a sizeable presence are Bengaluru-based United Breweries Group’s Kingfisher and Karan Bilimoria’s Cobra.

After UK, White Rhino is eyeing New York and other south East Asian markets although not immediately. Currently the beer is available in New Delhi and the National Capital Region, as well as Chandigarh. “We are planning to enter the Bengaluru market next month, and may be Maharashtra later in the year,” Puri said.

This summer, the company is looking at sales of around 10,000 cases a month—almost double of what it does at present. “We have grown by around 200% since we started. Our target is to turn profitable in 2019. We are not looking at any external funding right now. If we go for faster expansion, we may look at raising funds, as long the investor agrees with our philosophy,” said Puri.

In India, Puri is planning to launch a few more variants of White Rhino, such as India Pale Ale, this summer. “We may also look at launching seasonal beers, such as beer with coffee or mango flavour, spice mix, etc. But, we are yet to finalise anything,” said Puri. White Rhino is owned by Puri and his family.

White Rhino’s domestic rival Bira 91, a craft beer brand produced by Sequoia Capital-backed B9 Beverages Pvt Ltd, has already entered the New York market and is planning get into five new markets —the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates—this summer through distribution partnerships, Mint reported on 13 October 2017.livemint