Author: Ganesh Vancheeswaran

India is in the midst of a craft beer boom, what with several breweries and taprooms opening in all its major cities. Craft beer brands and brewers are experimenting with beer styles and recipes in an attempt to offer a wider range of brews to a set of curious, foraging beer-lovers. Expos, conferences and panel discussions are being held more often to discuss the trends, challenges and opportunities in the world of beer. Equipment manufacturers and global beer brands are eyeing India with renewed interest. The lure of ‘craft’ is so strong that even big, traditional brands have not been able to resist it.

In the midst of these rapid developments, there is a shortage of information on the beer industry. Information that is reliable and that captures the perspectives and experiences of the diverse stakeholders of this industry. While informal channels of information exist in the form of blogs and online fora, this rapidly growing market needs a formal source of credible information to track the evolution of the industry. This is where Brewer World comes in.

Over the last few years, Brewer World has closely watched and reported on the Indian market for beer. Collaborating with several industry experts, it has done a very good job of educating and informing industry stakeholders. Importantly, it has struck a balance between news that is relevant to businesses and to consumers.

Recently, we caught up with Anitha Raghunath, Co-founder and Editor of Brewer World, for a tete-a-tete. Here is the full lowdown of the chat.

When did you launch this magazine? How many issues have you brought out so far? At what intervals do the issues come out? 

Anitha Raghunath: Brewer World is a techno-lifestyle magazine that was conceptualised in mid-2016. We published out first issue in early 2017. As of now, we’ve brought out 10 issues at quarterly intervals.

Why did you think of launching Brewer World? 

Anitha: We were on a holiday in the Bahamas in 2016. Funnily enough, we were trying a popular beer from the region, when it struck us that there are so many dedicated platforms for fashion, movies, travel and even music, but nothing for the beer industry in India. Given that our country is one of the largest consumers of beer worldwide, a dedicated magazine seemed like an idea that would benefit not just beer consumers, but also the brands and the industry, overall.

On our return to India, we carried out some research and met a few key veterans from the beer and brewing industry. The response was so encouraging, that we decided to do something about it. That’s how Brewer World was born.

By the time you launched this magazine, the world had already gone digital in a big way. So why did you launch in print?  

Anitha: We were already in the print publications business through our parent company, Virgo Communications and Exhibitions Pvt Ltd. Since this was a well-tested ground for us and we had already made a name for ourselves there, we decided to introduce Brewer World through the print medium and evolve gradually from there.

What have you attempted to do through the magazine, so far?

Anitha: In all our issues, we have planned our editorial so as to bring out a healthy mix of stories that appeal to the business side of the brewing industry, and to beer consumers and enthusiasts. So, one can come across information on brewing equipment and raw materials in this magazine, just as easily as they can find information about international beer festivals to attend this winter. If you’re someone who loves staying up-to-date with global news about the beer industry, you’ll find it in our publication. And if, on the other hand, you’re a beer consumer seeking information on beer brands, new brews to try, beer tourism and beer culture – you’ll find that here, too!

While Brewer World always had a website, you recently morphed that into a full-fledged digital platform. What’s the difference? What’s new?

Anitha: Earlier, the website was only supporting the print magazine. Now, we have transformed Brewer World into a first-of-its-kind dynamic digital platform to enable the beer industry and build a community around beer. This platform brings all the stakeholders of the industry together, thereby offering ample opportunities for them to connect and engage with a curated target group. Beer industry players can launch and promote their brands/products here and educate consumers through interesting and informative content. At the same time, industry associations will find this a dedicated and consistent medium through which to highlight the various challenges and opportunities faced by the industry. And beer lovers will keep getting stories about the lifestyle angle of beer – brand launches, beer styles, etc.

Overall, it is a great way to stay updated with the beer industry on a global level.

How do you see the platform growing from here on?  What kind of content and collaborations can we expect to see? 

Anitha: We have a two-pronged approach to content. For consumers, we have content on beer lifestyle, tourism and culture, as well as a selection of exciting and engaging news on the latest brand launches and events. For our B2B readers, we focus our content more on beer brewing techniques and technology, raw material and equipment supplies, market insights, innovation and CSR.

We will continue to collaborate with allied industries, embassies, international trade bodies, brewers and other industry stalwarts. Therefore, people can definitely expect content that’s a lot more educative, without losing out on the “chilled out” essence of beer that we all love. As a platform, this is how we see ourselves contributing to the growth of this industry.

What do you think is the reading climate in India, as far as beer and spirits are concerned? Meaning, what does the Indian beer industry want to read? What do consumers want to read?

Anitha: I believe that the reading climate in India, specifically vis-à-vis the beer industry, is difficult to gauge as the information available is limited and scattered. Industry players would like to be updated with the business side of things such as the latest brand launches, market share reports and studies, new technology, brewing techniques, product innovation etc.  Consumers, on the other hand, are naturally more interested to know about the lifestyle side of beer.

How does this compare with the scenario in the Western world?

Anitha: The beer market in the West is far more mature, not just with respect to producing beer, but also in terms of consuming the beverage. Beer has pretty much been a part of their culture and celebratory traditions for centuries. That is why, consumers there are so much more familiar with various beer styles, and know enough to understand their own preferences and make an informed decision. In India, on the other hand, beer is still at a nascent stage. Indians are only just getting to know craft beer a little better – and given the rich heritage beer has as a product, we still have a long way to go.

Tell us a bit about the contributors to your magazine/portal. Who are they, how do you select them, how do they add value to your publication? 

Anitha: The contributors to our magazine are renowned experts. We have brew masters, chefs, scientists, educationists, brand and marketing heads, and experts in equipment and raw materials contributing content. We select them purely on their credentials, their keenness to write and of course, their passion for beer. They add an enormous amount of value to our platform by contributing to variety, thereby helping us keep our editorial fresh, always. 

Do you get feedback from your readers? Can you recall an instance or two when a reader shared memorable feedback? 

Anitha: Yes we do get feedback, touchwood. Our magazine has been received warmly for its design and editorial by readers and industry stalwarts – both nationally and internationally. However, one particular testimonial is close to our hearts.

It came from a brewery owner from Finland, who came to India in search of new business opportunities. He met us and brought us beer samples. He told us that his entire knowledge of the Indian beer industry and the connections he had made here were through Brewer World. Coming from a complete stranger, this was a huge deal to us.

What do you think of the evolution of the Indian beer industry in recent years and where it stands today? I am asking from multiple perspectives: beer brands, craft brewing, consumer preferences and habits, brewing technology and so on. 

Anitha: The beer industry here has been on a positive growth trajectory. In recent years, beer has become one of the most popular beverages in the world. India is the second-largest market for beer consumption and all the leading global brands have already entered the market. The growing popularity of craft beer has added to the industry’s growth and awareness. The introduction of craft variants and zero alcohol beer indicates the beer industry’s long term goals for this region. The brewing technology in India has been on par with international standards, and the industry has constantly been investing and upgrading to cater to the demands of the market. The favourable demographics and changing lifestyle of young Indian consumers are making beer one of the most preferred drinks. We believe that the beer industry has huge potential, inspite of the challenges it faces on regulation, taxation and marketing.

Tell us a bit about the Brewer World team. 

Anitha: Brewer World was co-founded by three of us: I, as the Managing Director, Suraaj Nair, as Director of Marketing and Raghu G., as Director of Operations.

Our marketing and sales department handles calls and advertorial requirements, while our digital marketing team constantly monitors our website and social media feeds to ensure that there is regular engagement. Of course, being a content platform, we have a separate editorial team that constantly puts out fresh content. Our design team works closely with our writers to ensure that our content is represented in an appealing format for today’s on-the-go digital generation.

The best part is that our team has beer lovers from different age groups – and that’s what makes us so vibrant and passionate. Each day at Brewer World brings on fresh brainstorming sessions and strategy debates.

And now, a bit about yourself (including, importantly, what your favourite poison is!)

Anitha: I have been an entrepreneur in the marketing and communications space since 2004, and have conceptualized and established trade exhibitions and publications for various industries – like elevators & escalators, gears and grinding, and adhesive and sealants.

I’m a beer lover at heart. I look forward to trying different brews and local flavours wherever I go. My love for beer has been my sole driving force behind creating Brewer World. It is my hope that through this platform, I can bring other beer enthusiasts like myself closer to the beer industry and vice versa.

Pictures: Ganesh Vancheeswaran