From the top Rebecca Smith · 27 October 2015
Cobra Beer founder Lord Bilimoria on how to brew up global ambitions for a business
The founder of Cobra Beer and cross-bench peer, Lord Bilimoria, spoke to Business Advice to discuss his new venture and why he thinks the current business climate is so hospitable for small firms. The foundations for Bilimoria’s business empire were establishedin 1989, following graduation from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. During his time at university, Bilimoria had regularly eaten at Indian restaurants and felt regular larger was too gassy to be enjoyed alongside the meals, while ale was too bitter. The desire to create a new optionpossessing the refreshing qualities of a lager, with the drinkability of an ale, resulted in the creation of Cobra Beer. At that stage, despite being qualified as a chartered accountant and picking up a law degree from Cambridge, he was pretty new to the world of business and entrepreneurship. It was very important we had a mentor who was a seasoned businessman with global experience, Bilimoria explained as his first port of call with business partner Arjun Reddy. He introduced us to the Mysore Brewer in India where Cobra was first brewed. Also crucial in the early stages was devoting the entirety of his time to the endeavour. You have to give it your everything, and cannot just spend part of your time working on it, Bilimoria said. Once I decided to put that big idea into play, I had to make that leap and commit to getting my business off the ground and making it a success. He feels having a big idea was integral to his own career aims. With Cobra I wanted to create the best ever Indian beer and make it a global beer brand? it’s now stocked in 98.6 per cent of the UK’s curry restaurants as well as thousands of supermarkets and pubs across the UK, and has been exported to more than 45 countries worldwide. The same belief extends to his new project, photo-sharing app PictoSo, which Bilimoria has just launched with his cousin and business partner Rashid Bilimoria and app developer Philipp Reisinger. The app is for IOS, free to download and enables groups of users to instantly create shared albums with photographs and ten second videos, so they can share the moments that matter with the people that matter. While there’s aplethora of photo-sharing apps out there, the trio are confident PictoSo Is unique and fulfils a genuine need. Bilimoria added that it’s about creating the ultimate photo-sharing app, where photos are shared instantly, directly onto people’s phones stored at high quality, and are shared with specific groups of people. He has kept an eye on the tech space, while the idea for theapp overlapped with his own interest in photography. Bilimoria had a Eureka moment? at Harvard Business School, when he heard the number of photos uploaded to the internet was 700bn over the past year, and could be as high as one trillion by the end of 2015. ‘seeing the trend of storage costs dropping, broadband costs dropping, data speed and capacity increasing, and smartphone usage increasing, it was clear that everything was going in the right direction to create a photo-sharing app with a difference, he explained. He thinks having global ambitions from the start? is an important propelling force in getting a business off the ground in its early formative years, and making sure you’re creating a product that was different in some way, and which would provide a genuine benefit to your customers and consumers.
ABOUT THE EXPERTRebecca Smith
Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.