for Business' tells the inspirational success story of Karan Bilimoria
- the founder and Chief Executive of Cobra Beer. Karan shares his
business principles and gives an insight into how he has made Cobra
one of the UK's fastest growing beer brands and built it into a
hugely successful global business in little more than 15 years.
Bilimoria was 27 years old and had student debts of £20,000
when he set off on his mission to brew the finest ever Indian beer
and to make it a global beer brand. With no prior knowledge of the
marketplace, and at the beginning of one of the UK's worst recessions,
Karan entered the most competitive beer market in the world - and
took on an industry already packed with established brands.
was with persistence, determination and a passionate belief in his
product that Karan launched Cobra in 1990, personally delivering
cases of beer to his customers in a battered, bright-green Citroen
2CV. By the beginning of 1991, the company achieved one of its first
important milestones, reaching 100 Indian restaurants. Today, the
brand has grown to supply nearly 6,000 Indian restaurants, 6,000
bars, clubs and pubs, and over 12,000 branches of leading multiples,
supermarkets and off-licenses throughout the UK. Cobra Beer is enjoyed
in over 45 countries worldwide, and the brand boasts a retail value
turnover of over £96 million.
for Business' follows Karan's journey from the very beginning, charting
the key decisions made, obstacles overcome, and pivotal moments
in the company's history that helped turn a half-formed idea into
a global drinks business. Crammed full of business tips, insights
and interviews with key players at Cobra, the book will help anyone
interested in taking a good idea and turning it into a successful
'Bottled for Business', Karan Bilimoria outlines his views and advice
it takes to be a successful entrepreneur and the challenges entrepreneurs
and creativity - the currency in which entrepreneurs trade
the 'credibility gap' and establishing a reputation
to stay ahead of the competition
threats into opportunities
value of seeking external, expert advice and the importance of
employing the best advisors
role of the CEO
when and who to recruit, effectively managing staff and building
a great company culture
delegation and leadership
importance of looking after and believing in your product
to know your market
finance and funding growth, while retaining ownership
key elements of crisis management
virtues of lifelong learning
Beer nearly wasn't Cobra at all
Two weeks away from bottling
a new beer called Panther, the distributors telephoned to say that
although customers liked the beer, they didn't like the name. By
pure chance the printers hadn't started printing the labels. Stop
the press! said Karan, and two weeks before the first shipment of
beer left India he and his brother designed the new branding, the
Cobra label, from scratch.
Cobra Beer bottle is embossed with six icons which depict the Cobra
story visually: a family crest (denoting the general's son in honour
of Karan's father, a general in the Indian Army), an adult elephant
with its calf (learning lessons in lager), a snake charmer (charming
beer), a pair of scales (against all odds), two palm trees next
to a building (from Bangalore to Bedford) and a boat carrying beer
barrels (around the world). The Cobra bottle has won numerous awards
for its innovative packaging,
judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment
you are given a task, the first thing is to do it. The second
thing is to always do that little bit extra that you were not
asked to do. Be innovative, be creative, go the extra mile
important to have not just an efficient team but a happy and efficient
how and know why
people respect and give people trust
for will, not skill
BUSINESS TIPS: THE 7Ps (OR 6Ps and 1F)
the summer, Cobra announced that it successfully raised a total
of £27.5 million to fund the next phase of the company's development,
primarily focusing on accelerating business growth in the UK and
India as well as continuing to develop the company's South African
and export activities.
September, Cobra Beer secured a much coveted place among the list
of the UK's coolest brands for the second successive year. 'CoolBrands'
is an unprecedented initiative from Superbrands Ltd - the world's
leading authority on branding, considered a key barometer of the
brands, people and places that have become extremely desirable among
many style leaders and influencers.
also saw Cobra Beer launch its biggest ever national TV campaign
- 'Unusual Thing, Excellence' - a heavyweight through-the-line campaign
targeting discerning 25-34 year old lager drinkers. The campaign
had a total spend of £10 million pounds.
Bilimoria was recently on the judging panel for Sky One's 'The Big
Idea', alongside Ruth Badger and inventor of the Predator football
boot and ex-Liverpool FC player Craig Johnston, in a UK-wide search
for inventors and entrepreneurs.
LORD BILIMORIA, CBE, DL
in India, Karan Bilimoria came to the UK for his higher education
as a 19-year-old.
qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Ernst and Young, London,
and graduated in Law from Cambridge University, Karan developed
a less gassy, premium lager brewed to perfectly appeal to both ale
drinkers and lager drinkers alike and to complement food.
more than fifteen years later, Cobra Beer is one of the fastest
growing beer brands in the UK and one of the most innovative young
companies in the country. The brand has a current retail value turnover
of £96 million, is sold in nearly 6,000 Indian restaurants,
and is available to 6,000 bars, pubs and clubs and in leading multiples,
supermarkets and off-licenses throughout the UK. Cobra Beer was
awarded 12 Gold Medals at the 2006 Monde Selection, Brussels, World
Selection of Quality Awards - more than any other beer in the world
and one more than the company's already world-beating total in 2005.
Karan started Cobra in 1990 when he was £20,000 in debt and
up against all odds, Cobra has grown into an operation with offices
on four continents and exports to over 45 countries, with brewing
operations in five countries. Karan is widely respected for his
entrepreneurial spirit. He is the Representative Deputy Lieutenant
of the London Borough of Hounslow and among many other positions
serves as Chancellor of Thames Valley University -the UK's youngest
at the time of his appointment. Karan is one of the first two Visiting
Entrepreneurs ever appointed at Cambridge University, serves as
National Champion of the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship,
and is a Champion of the Enterprise Insight Make Your Mark campaign.
He sits on the Government's National Employment Panel (NEP), and
from 2001 to 2005 was Chairman of the NEP's SME Board. Additionally,
Karan serves as UK Chairman of the Indo British Partnership and
Vice-Chairman of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Asian
Business Association, and sits on the UK-India Round Table and the
Asia Task Force. He lectures extensively in the UK and abroad on
entrepreneurship, business, education, and the Indo-British relationship.
also directly supports a number of charities, serving as a patron
of the Thare Mache Starfish Initiative, a patron of Rethink severe
mental illness, and as Chairman of the advisory board of the Shrimati
Pushpa Wati Loomba Memorial Trust for the education of children
of poor widows in India. He is Chairman of the Memorial Gates Committee
and a member of the Advisory Council of CIDA Foundation UK.
has won numerous awards in recognition of his business achievements
and charitable work, including the RSA's Albert Medal in the Society's
250th anniversary year, 2004. He was named Entrepreneur of the Year
2003 and Business Person of the Year 2004 by the London Business
Awards, Entrepreneur of the Year 2004 at the National Business Awards
(London and South East of England) and London Entrepreneur of the
Year 2003 (Consumer Products) by Ernst & Young. In 2005, Karan
was honoured with the Award for Outstanding Achievement by the Institute
of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales in the Institute's
125th anniversary year. He was named Man of the Year at the 2006
Drinks Business Awards. He has been awarded honorary doctorates
by Brunel University, Heriot-Watt University and Staffordshire University.
July 2006, Karan Bilimoria officially took his seat on the crossbenches
of the House of Lords. As The Lord Bilimoria, of Chelsea, Karan
is one of Britain's youngest peers and the first ever Zoroastrian
Parsi to sit in the House of Lords.
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