Bira parent raises $10 Mn from MUFG Bank
B9 Beverages, which owns Indian craft beer brand Bira 91, has raised $10 million from Japan’s largest bank MUFG Bank, months after it secured $70 million in a Series-D funding round, which was led by Japanese beer company Kirin Holdings Co.
The company will use the funds to continue to ramp up its production, bolster the supply chain and enhance innovation capabilities.
“When I look at this particular investment, I think the idea for us was to really get the most important and credible financial institution based out of Japan,” Ankur Jain, founder and CEO of B9 Beverages told Mint in an interview on Thursday.
“One of the things that we’re trying to build is a network of financial institutions across the world who can help us as we institutionalize our company and get to our next corporate milestone—of potentially going public,” Jain added.
The focus for the alcoholic beverages company, which drove the popularity of craft beer in the country, is to scale up the business over the next 12 to 24 months and ensure the brewer is at a scale where an IPO “becomes meaningful”, Jain said.
However, timelines for an IPO are not assessed as of now, he added.
Established in 2015, Bira 91 is backed by Sequoia Capital India, Sofina of Belgium, and Kirin Holding of Japan. Institutional financial investors hold up to a 30% stake in B9 Beverages. Jain declined to comment on the valuation at which the company raised the current round.
Meanwhile, Yasuhide Hayashi, executive officer, MUFG Bank, said the Indian beer market is booming, due to factors such as changing lifestyle of consumers, a growing preference for alcoholic beverages, and rising brand consciousness regarding imported and premium beers.
“With this partnership, we are eager to work with the Bira 91 team to further their growth story and enhance their footprint in India as well as across the globe,” Hayashi said.
The brewer recently stepped into the cafe-chain market after it acquired The Beer Cafe in an all-stock deal in October. The move was aimed at strengthening its play in the pubs and taprooms market and building a large-scale direct-to-consumer platform focused on beer and innovation.
Jain said the two companies are “early stages of integration” and the chain will add another 10 outlets this quarter. “We’re already ahead of our pre-covid numbers in terms of the cafe’s revenues. We are expanding the store network from the current 30 to nearly 60 to 65 before the end of fiscal 2024,” he said.
Companies are gearing up for a strong summer with no preceding covid-19 wave that could potentially disrupt demand and supply. However, inflationary pressures persist as prices of glass bottles and barley have remained stubbornly high. Input costs for the brewer have risen 15-35% compared to pre-covid levels.
“A lot of states have taken progressive steps to ensure improvement in pricing. Some states are still a little bit stubborn. Most suppliers will not be able to allocate products if price increases are not given by those excise departments and so on,” Jain added.
The company has also been expanding its non-beer portfolio with hard seltzers and ciders. “We’re not intending to enter the spirits category, for example. But to keep our focus on lower ABV (alcohol by volume) beverages i.e. sparkling. The idea for us is to really focus on the beer occasion,” he said.
Bira 91 holds a market share of 5% across key markets in India. It has five manufacturing facilities in the country and is available across 550 towns and 18 countries worldwide.
Jain said their product will be available in 25 markets overseas before the end of this calendar year. The company recently announced investments in a greenfield facility in Uttar Pradesh, expected to go live in the summer of 2024.
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