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July 4, 2019

How to Start a Microbrewery in India | Toit’s Bangalore Journey

microbreweries in india

These days everybody who gets bored of the rat race thinks at 30 they should start a bar.

Many try.

Few succeed.

I’m fascinated by the current craft beer and microbrewery craze in India.

Bira, Big Brewsky, and all of those others folks brewing stuff that we pretend to understand the meaning of.

Oh wow this one has more hops, and this one is a more smoky and nutty flavor? Ok awesome!

Right.

Regardless of the brewpub culture and beer snobs, there is one place since I moved to Bangalore that very quickly became synonymous with the city of Bengaluru.

Toit.

Or as the co-owner Sibi Venkataraju corrects me in my podcast…Toit “Brewpub.”

A great talk about drinking and alcohol with a pub owner. Loved it.

Breweries in Bangalore. A ten year dream.

I moved to Bangalore in 2010 and I remember hearing buzz about a new restaurant that opened up.

Flash forward a couple of visits, I was introduced to Sibi since I was also doing a lot of stand up comedy in the city.

I distinctly remember him telling me he left a corporate job in Singapore at some boutique IT firm to open up this behemoth venue.

My first thought was…why?

Why Quit your Job To Start a Restaurant?

Why would you leave a cushy place like Singapore, to come to India, fight with regulators and corrupt folks to open up a liquor venue…in a speciality that isn’t even defined at the time the way a normal pub or restaurant or bar might be?

I mean, opening up a bar or restaurant scares me in my core.

Million dollar bars and restaurant wipe out people’s life savings when the government decides almost overnight to change this rule or that. Are you nuts bro?

I didn’t say that to him of course.

Thankfully my podcast has been growing (or brewing?) and and after a few months of hounding him (To be fair, he was busy opening up Toit in Pune), Sibi finally stopped by my studio aka my house to talk about how one can open a microbrewery in Bangalore and also doing life lessons on doing business in India.

These days everyone is trying to open up a craft beer place.

Investors are eager to dump money in…and just like stand up comedy we’re seeing in India, it’s going to quickly all start feeling the same while also letting a few stars who are unique shine through.

That being said, I loved what Sibi had to say.

No need to watch for listen, I’ve included them here but paraphrased some big takeaways if you don’t have the time. (I know you do though).

Lessons from India’s Microbrewery Industry

On being the best at what you’re known for

  • If you do most things better than most people, you’ll do fine. Toit got a headstart in the market, but kept their USP as great beer, no judgements and a unique branding/style.

On Social Media

  • Sibi is not really into social media gimmicks, which I sort of disagree with. But we had an engaging discussion on when you need it (e.g. Come in now and get 50% off by using our hashtag!) and when you just focus on good food and beer. Places like Social in Koramangala and Khar do it well, but Toit hasn’t really needed to. But should you even if business is fine? (e.g. or have a cute sign that people want to post on their Instagram or make your food look hip enough get filtered)

You’re only NEW once. Will you make the most of it?

  • People like new, but by it’s own definition the word has an expiry date. How will you stand out with a bang? How will you REALLY make use of your first mover advantage and not just be complacent? (Toit shy’s away from crazy live event nights or Karaoke)

ALSO SEE: Who In Your Life Enables you To Be Average?

On that creative itch nagging you while you’re in your cubicle

  • If you have a creative itch, it’s not going to go away. Unlike what your mom says…scratch it often and scratch it early.

On having one clearly defined goal

  • Their goal was always to not just be one of the best breweries in Bangalore or to be a successful restaurant, but to be known for “sending it since 2010” and be one of those classic institutions you relate the city’s name with. Ask any Bandra kid visiting Bangalore and you’ll hear them go “BROOOO TOIT BROOOO.”
How I envision most Bandra or Indiranagar 21 year olds.

On having Humility

  • Humility to recognize your good fortune was possibly right place and right time. (e.g. Would toit or Windmills or Bira be as successful had they started today, with a more crowded market and a more educated consumer? Who knows).

Bangalore’s Bar Scene

Sibi and I also talked about a few other very important topics that are near and dear to my heart. Specifically:

  • Do we need to learn to control our alcohol? And the real reasons why we drink?
  • Guys who roll 10 guys into a place and expect a miracle to happen for them.
  • Why some bars and pubs survive in Bangalore and why others dont.
  • Joking around about the Bangalore nightlife culture.

TOIT Tales from the Birdy Num Num Podcast

The whole chat is on this channel in increments, the one hour video should be out by August 2019.

CONCLUSION

India’s beer industry is changing, yet just like the comedy market, youTube market and pretty much any market…if you don’t stay true to your guns you’ll disappear in a crowded space.

You can learn a lot about yourself by consuming alcohol, but you can also learn a lot about the human condition by selling it.

Specifically, in business, in life, in relationships and anything else…The only thing harder than getting to the top is staying there.

Cheers.

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