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Prabhtej Singh Bhatia, Founder and CEO of Simba Craft BeerBI India
Prabhtej Singh Bhatia shares his optimism about the craft beer segment in India
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Word of mouth played a huge role in our growth, helped us develop a base of brand loyalists: Prabhtej Singh Bhatia, Simba Craft Beer

Prabhtej Singh Bhatia shares his optimism about the craft beer segment in India
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  • Started in 2016, Simba Craft Beer has already been able to carve a way for itself in the market.
  • Word of mouth has played a huge role in the brand's growth and has been instrumental in helping them develop a base of brand loyalists, shares Prabhtej Singh Bhatia, Founder and CEO of Simba Craft Beer.
  • He tells us how despite being a difficult year, in 2020 the company has already touched Rs 150 crore from the Rs 125 crore last year.
  • Bhatia also tells us that in the next 5 years, he sees the craft beer segment take a leap and takeover 10-11% of the market instead on the current 1-2%.

The lockdown this year came right before the summer season. Many brands that rely heavily on the season like home appliances, travel etc were impacted substantially due to the complete country-wide lockdown.

Another industry that was severely affected due to this move was the liquor industry. The summer months usually mean peak sale time for liquor brands, especially beers. However, with the gradual opening up of the country, things are slowly starting to look up.

We recently caught up with Prabhtej Singh Bhatia, Founder and CEO of Simba Craft Beer. Started in 2016, the brand has already been able to carve a way for itself in the market. Primarily relying on word-of-mouth marketing, Simba has been able to develop a loyal consumer base in the country.

Despite entering a segment that has had a lot of well-established players, the brand has been witnessing impressive growth. Bhatia tells us how they have been able to drive differentiation, and how word of mouth has worked wonders for the brand.

Excerpts:

  • Q) Simba was launched in 2016 but when you launched, you hardly did any marketing around it then. How did you manage to woo Indian beer drinkers who have been loyalists of a lot of other brands?
  • Since the inception of the brand, our brand philosophy has been that if you build a great product, then it speaks for itself. Our focus for Simba has been to first get the product right and then work upon building a strong knit community of consumers who love the product. We truly believe in our product and it has carved a niche for itself in the country. Having said that, we did a bit of marketing. we always wanted to build a brand from ground-up.

  • Q) Your job must have been difficult as you were competing in a category that had a lot of global, much well-established players. How were you able to create a differentiation for yourself?
  • We largely depended on word-of-mouth promotion and still stick to that. And because of a much higher quality and differentiated product we were able to capture the imagination of several people and make our presence felt. When we entered the market, the industry had been stagnant for a while with old players and consumers did not have a lot of options. They consumed the same kind of beer packaged under different labels. It’s fairly recent since a new wave of craft beer enthusiasts emerged and is growing now. Consumers today are receptive to change and are open to experimenting with new offerings. Simba has been able to disrupt the already existing limited categories (strong and lager) of beer by introducing quality product and in new variants.

  • Q) You say word-of-mouth played an important role initially. Has your marketing strategy evolved now?
  • Word of mouth played a huge role in our growth, it has been instrumental in helping us develop a base of brand loyalists. We continue to be cognizant of our brand associations, events we host or partner with and the kind of consumer segment we reach out, to ensure our key message reaches the right set of audience. This has helped us create a niche for ourselves in the market/industry.

  • Q) You have already launched an IP. Tell us a bit about Simba Uproar.
  • Simba has been working hard to support local underground artists in helping them find a strong foothold in the industry. We want to provide artists and consumers with relevant platforms to showcase their talent. For this we launched our own IP called Simba Uproar where we have worked with artists such as Blot!,Sequel, Ritviz, Ten Walls, George Fitzgerald and Seedhe Maut. In light of the current health crisis, we took our IP to consumers’ homes with Simba Roar from Home – a series of cool gigs, good music and great beer in the comfort of homes. Making this a twice a month property to engage with music lovers, Simba live streams a local artists from varied genres who play their curated playlists.

  • Q) You have also launched a range of merchandise. How has the reception been so far? How are you growing that vertical? Are you only promoting it on the digital medium?
  • Our merchandise is something that was born out of consumer demand and love for the brand. We are building it very organically and do not do a lot of marketing for it. Our focus is and will remain our beer. Our brand loyalists have shown us constant support, be it our beer or our merchandise. It has been received well by Simba loyalists and has grown ever since.

  • Q) How big is the brand right now and what is your target revenue for the next year? And how do you aim to achieve this?
  • We have witnessed tremendous growth. This year our company had already touched Rs 150 crore from Rs 125 crore last year . The year so far has been challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact of business across industries, including the liquor industry. Things are beginning to look up as we move towards resuming normalcy, and we are positive and hopeful about the year ahead and 2021.

  • Q) How are you looking at expanding your offering while also strengthening your distribution?
  • We are looking at foraying into a new segment with our kegs, these will be available throughout the country. We also aim to enter Kerala in southern markets and strengthen our presence in Karnataka state among others. There are some very good distributers present in the industry who are doing a great job. We are in talks with them for our business as well.

  • Q) What was the business impact of the lockdown on your company?
  • Our business greatly suffered in terms of sales during the month of April and May due to COVID-19 lockdown. We almost made zero sales during those two months, which has impacted the business. April and May used to contribute to almost 25-30% of the annual revenue.

  • Q) What lessons of resilience did you learn after the lockdown? Has it made your business more future-ready?
  • The pandemic has forced us all to revisit our basics and stick to them. We realized the fundamentals of any company are very important, financial prudence is more important than ever now. We are definitely more future-ready and fundamentally aligned following this experience. COVID-19 has taught us that sticking to ones fundamentals never goes wrong and has paved a way for a better future.

  • Q) How do you see the craft beer segment evolve in the next few years?
  • I think the craft beer segment is destined to grow with some hit on the microbrewery side. In the next 5 years, I do see it taking a leap and takeover 10-11% of the market instead on 1-2% right now.


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