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This year Kingfisher celebrates its 30th anniversary in the UK market, during which time it has cemented its position as one of the leading beers for the spice business sector. It also has a 20 year brewing association with Shepherd Neame, through which it services the UK as well as exports to places like the Middle East and Singapore.

Shekhar Ramamurthy is Deputy President of United Breweries Limited, Kingfisher’s parent group, and in this role he is responsible for the globalisa- tion of the Kingfisher beer brand. Spice Business recently caught up with Mr Ramamurthy to see how the company plans to develop its presence in the UK still further.

How important is the UK market to Kingfisher? It is a very important market for a vari- ety of reasons. One, we have been here for three decades, and it was the first market that we brewed outside of India. Two, there is a large sub-continent pop- ulation living in England and the rest of the UK. Three, Indian food is not Indian food, it is British food. It is the most popular cuisine in the UK. What better beer than Kingfisher to compliment that? So the UK market is very impor- tant to us and is at the very heart of our business.

What message do you have to the industry here? What should they stock Kingfisher? Because it is the authentic Indian beer; because it is the most widely consumed Indian beer in the world. For us as UB, we consciously have to get the look and feel image of Kingfisher as

an international Indian brand. Obviously we know each market operates differ- ently, but the soul essence of the brand that is it Indian, yet premium and inter- national. We believe the UK consumer will be able to relate to that concept.

As Kingfisher you are involved with several sponsorships, especially sports. Can you tell us more about the thinking behind that? We are associated with cricket and in particular the Indian premier league which is the most visible and attractive cricket competition around the world. The brand’s passion for cricket also extends into the UK where a three year partnership has recently been signed with the England & Wales Cricket Board as sponsor of the Kingfisher Beer Cup. We are also trying to drive investment into recreational cricket with a number of fundraising initiatives, including the Kingfisher Quiz and Curry Nights. We are pleased that Graham Swann has been re-signed as Kingfisher UK Brand Ambassador for the next two years. We also associated with Formula 1 racing, as our chairman owns a Formula 1 team called Sahara Force India. This is branded largely with ‘Kingfisher’.

In terms of growing yourselves over here in the UK, how do you assess Kingfisher’s performance against its main rivals like Cobra and Tiger? Kingfisher is doing well. In the UK, Cobra is seen is a dominant India beer and we respect them for what they are; they are a big brand here and do well with consumers. However, what differ- entiates us from Cobra is that we have provenance. Cobra is not in India, having negligible presence if at all whereas we

are an authentic Indian brand. We are the number one Indian beer with a sig- nificant 54% market share. We would like Kingfisher to be seen as, of course Indian, because we are very proud of our Indian roots and association, but we would like the brand to reflect the spirit and ethos of our new dynamic modern India. In the UK we have exciting plans to buck the trend in a declining market without devaluing the brand via price promotions. We want to fully utilise the brand’s heritage. We also have exciting future European expansion plans.

Shekar Ramamurthy profile As well as being Deputy President of UB, Mr Ramamurthy is a Director on the board of Kingfisher Beer Europe and steers the on license operations of the Kingfisher beer brand in Australia and New Zealand.

He has spent over two decades with the UB Group and counts on his ability to work with diverse teams in leader- ship and peer roles as a key asset. He holds a Bachelor of Technology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and has also obtained his Post Graduate Diploma in Management from Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata in 1987. Prior to joining The UB Group, he spent two years with Lintas India Limited.

Shekhar Ramamurthy is also the President of All India Brewers’ Association (AIBA), which is the umbrella body representing the Beer industry in the country.

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