The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cobra comes back for a kill

Calcutta, April 16: Karan Bilimoria of the Cobra ‘curry’ Beer fame is gearing up to take on the Mallyas and Chhabrias of India after edging out competitors from 5,000 Indian restaurants in the UK.

To take on the Indian brands, the UK-based Cobra Beer will be investing around $ 10 million — or Rs 50 crore — to create brewing capacity in India.

Currently imported from the UK, Cobra has been soft-launched in the leading metros. It sells mostly in leading hotels, clubs and restaurants in India at a higher price than local brands.

Founded by Karan Bilimoria in 1989, Cobra Beer shifted its base from India to the UK in 1997. Positioned as an ideal beer to accompany Indian curry, Cobra has emerged as one of the fastest growing brands in the UK with annual revenues approaching £ 50 million.

One in every four bottles of beer sold in Indian restaurants in the UK is a Cobra, the company claims. It is also available in nearly all the high-street stores there, and is exported to virtually all countries in the continent. It has also entered the US market recently as the Mogul.

Perses Bilimoria, regional director for India, said: “We cannot compete with local brands if our product has to be imported from the UK. It attracts all the duties of the world that makes our product far more expensive than its competitors. We have to create brewing capacity in India, for which we are going to invest around $ 10 million.”

The company was looking at various alternatives, including acquisition of existing capacity, he said, but refused to divulge potential takeover targets.

“We are in talks with hundreds of people. We are discussing various arrangements including contract brewing. We hope to establish our own brewing capacity here within the next few months,” he added.

But Cobra cannot go back to where it started — Mysore Breweries. “It’s being taken over by the South African Breweries. We can’t go back there,” he said.

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