Come October 1, SABMiller India veteran T J Venkateswaran will don a new hat. From being director (sales) at the leading beer company, the 48-year-old captain will spearhead his own Rian Hospitalities. That new venture is looking to set up a chain of micro-breweries or beer pubs in cities such as Pune, Bangalore, Kolkata and Delhi under the brand name TJ’s Brew Works.
The concept of beer pubs is new in India, but it is growing, says Venkateswaran, who will bid adieu to SABMiller on September 30, following close to a decade’s association with the Indian subsidiary of the London-headquartered entity, the world second-largest brewing company by revenues. SAB, founded as South African Breweries in 1895, has its primary listing on the London Stock Exchange and secondary listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
Venkateswaran, who has cumulatively spent close to 25 years in the fast-moving consumer goods and alcohol industries, said the plan with Rian was to set up around 10 pubs in the next five years. “This has been on my mind for some time. I have always wanted to do something on my own,” he told Business Standard. Venkateswaran has done time with firms such as Marico and PepsiCo before moving to SABMiller in 2002.
At SAB, Venkateswaran was part of the core team responsible for growing its business in India. He was director, operations, north and then director, operations, central before becoming director, sales.
SABMiller on Tuesday has a market share of about 22-23 per cent to UB Group’s over 50 per cent share. Together, the two control close to 75 per cent of the 230-million-case beer market in India.
Much of SABMiller’s expansion in India has been on the back of acquisitions. It entered India in 2000 through a joint venture with Narang Breweries in Uttar Pradesh. It subsequently acquired Narang.
A year later, SABMiller bought Mysore Breweries, which produced beer brand Knock Out. This brand was subsequently rolled out nationally by SAB.
Then followed the acquisition of Rochees Breweries in Rajasthan and a JV with Shaw Wallace in 2003. SAB subsequently acquired the beer brands of Shaw Wallace, adding names such as Royal Challenge and Haywards to its list. It also acquired the Indian operations of Australian beer major Foster’s in 2006.
Last week’s global acquisition of Foster’s by SAB is likely to strengthen its Indian operations. The firm is likely to launch brands such as Victoria Bitter (popularly called VB) from the Foster’s global stable. It already has Peroni from its international portfolio in India.
Venkateswaran’s replacement is likely to be Shalabh Seth, director, supply chain, at SAB. A mail sent to SAB seeking clarity on Venkateswaran’s replacement elicited no response till the time of going to press.
Venkateswaran, meanwhile, has already put his team in his place including Ravi Wazir, a hospitality industry veteran, who will be chief operating officer at Rian. Wazir was part of the start-up team that launched the popular Olive Bar & Kitchen in Mumbai. Also part of Venkateswaran's team is ex-Levi’s hand KV Rajashekar, who is chief financial officer, while ex-chief brewer at SAB, S Cariappa, is a consultant on board.