Sequoia backs craft beer brand Bira 91

Domestic craft beer maker B9 Beverages Pvt Ltd, which markets the brand Bira 91, has raised Rs 40 crore ($6 million) in a Series A round of funding from a group of investors led by global venture capital firm Sequoia Capital.

The deal marks the second investment by the country’s most active venture capital firm in the beverage sector. Sequoia had previously backed Paperboat-branded soft drinks maker Hector Beverages.

B9, which intended to mobilise $10 million in Series A, will use the money raised for marketing and for setting up a new plant in Madhya Pradesh.

“Bira 91 is a cool ‘Indian’ brand and a great product,” said Abhay Pandey, managing director at Sequoia Capital.

Several angel investors such as Snapdeal co-founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, Zomato’s Deepinder Goyal, ChrysCapital co-founder Ashish Dhawan, and Mayank Singhal of Singapore state investment arm Temasek also participated in this round.

“Bira 91 is a perfect blend of a great product backed by solid branding and a very smart go-to-market strategy,” said Singhal, who had earlier backed companies such as mobile OS firm FirstTouch and Hugefly.

The beer brand, launched in February last year, is available in Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune and Chandigarh. The company claims to be selling around 20,000 cases of the brand per month. “We have nearly 30 per cent market share in the premium segment,” said Ankur Jain, founder and CEO of the company. He had earlier worked with Reliance Industries Ltd, ReliantMD and American India Foundation.

The company has exclusive import and marketing rights from seven breweries and has presence in all major urban centres in India. It has also tied up with a contract manufacturer in Belgium.

The company is looking to expand its geographical footprint next year. “In 2016, we will focus on laying the ground work in terms of process, team and an effective execution strategy,” Jain said.

The company had first raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding from a group of investors, including angel investors and executives from top private equity and technology firms from the US, Europe and Singapore, to fund its expansion plans in India. It raised additional money from angel investor Apurva Salarpuria soon thereafter.

Late last year, RAAY Global, a family office of Amit Patni, had invested in The White Owl Brewery, a Mumbai-based craft beer maker that also runs its own gastropub in the city.

Some other larger alcoholic-beverage ventures in India that have raised private funding in the past include John Distilleries and Sula Vineyards.

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