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Journey to a Global Brand: Cobra Beer’s Story

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When people refer to the word ‘beer’, it is often used as a broad term. The term can be used to mean anything from the light ale to the darker porter all the way to the wheaty German beer.

Now since we have that part all sorted out, you can begin to imagine how vast the beer market actually is. Just imagine yourself as an entrepreneur who is able to come up with a unique product in the already saturated market. Now you can begin to think of the massive success you can achieve. Do you feel it’s impossible? Well before you let you doubt cloud your judgement, you should know that Lord Bilimoria did it!

History of Cobra Beer

Just like how almost every business started up, the idea of Cobra Beer was birthed to meet a need. This was what Bilimoria had in mind when he came to study at Cambridge from India. One of the first things he realized was that his lovely berries could not go down well with the traditional beer because it was too gassy and couldn’t go well with ale because it was too flat.

Coupled with the fact that he was way deep in a £20,000 student debt, he knew it was time to create a beer that would meet an undiscovered need – a beer that was not gassy, not too bitter, smooth, and be accompanied well with curry.

We can all conclude that this move was definitely successful. In the UK, Cobra can be seen stocked in 98% of licensed curry houses. Although we can all agree this was the foundation with which it was built, over the years, Cobra has been able to develop new its products to meet everyday beer drinkers.

According to Bilimoria, the mission of the brand was in two parts; brew quality Indian beer and ensure the beer becomes a global brand. With a recent winning of five gold medals, Cobra has been able to fulfil its first mission statement with a total of 83 gold medals since 2001.

Not just all about the gold medal, Cobra is still actively on the part to fulfil its mission of becoming a global brand.

As at today, Cobra beer exports to 40 different countries. Plans are being made to launch the beer in Canada and Australia this year. The beer is currently being brewed in India, UK, and in Belgium.

While we are at it, it is also worthy to note that the beer is available in bars and pubs. With the ever rising consumption of craft beer all over the world, according to Bilimoria, Cobra is poised to play a vital role in this success.

What makes Cobra stand out from the rest is its texture and smoothness. This it achieves from its good blend of recipes, comprising of water, four varieties of hops, barley, and yeast.

In a recent interview, Bilimoria goes on to tell that he has eight different ‘p’s for success. In his words, these P’s stand for:

  • Product: it is important to have a product that is different from others and have a passion for it
  • Pricing: you tend to get exactly what you pay for. He admits that Cobra has always been expensive when in comparison to other conventional beers. According to Bilimoria, “Rolls Royce does not cost the same as a Ford”
  • Promotion: it is important to have a passion to promote your product. He says at a time when they couldn’t afford to have branded beers, they had to find an alternative way to advertise. Such advertisements are still been used today in it’s the Boss Campaign
  • Placement: its availability is crucial if it is to be a brand to be recognized with. It has to be available in all relevant channels
  • People: this speaks for itself; there’s no product success without people
  • Phinance: yes that’s right! Its finance is spelled with a ‘PH’. There nothing that can be achieved without money, when it comes to business.
  • Passion: this is the fuel and drive of any business. The entire team have to possess such passion that would help achieve the company’s mission
  • Profit: what’s the essence of any business without profit? It would have to be profitable in the end

He continues by explaining the importance of his team to the success of the products. Using the head of Cobra’s restaurant team, Samson, he reiterates that he is a pro in the industry and has been with the brand for 22 years.

While the teams are important to any business growth, the people for which guidance is sought also plays a vital role. No business can survive with one form of mentoring or the other. He also adds that today’s businesses are even receiving more support than ever before for start-ups.

Looking back to how he started, he recalls he had no experience in the beginning. He attributes his success to mentoring and how important it was to have the right kind of mentor. In comparison to how he started 25 years ago, he believes there’s much more support these days from government for businesses.

In the end, success will be guaranteed when the business has strong values and attitudes in its operation. “The most important thing is the attitude. You have to have the right attitude. Our motto is to aspire and to achieve against all odds with integrity.

Cobra at the Present Time

Cobra is definitely among those companies on the right track but it has not had a smooth ride from its establishment. Cobra found itself in the need of assistance when its credit dried up during the 2008 recession. It was able to overcome this with a joint venture idea by Molson Coors.

With Bilimoria and his partners taking up 49%, Molson Coors acquired 51%. According to Bilimoria, this made Cobra survive and come back stronger than ever.

When it comes to having the community in mind, Cobra is on the forefront. Its independent charity, Cobra Foundation, was set up in 2005 to provide community support, health, and education for the young in South Asia.

Coming back home to the UK, it recently launched an initiative where skills will be shared between experts and curry house chefs. According to Bilimoria, the shortage of skilled chef in the UK is as a result of the government’s immigration measures.