India's alcohol industry is the third biggest in the world after China and Russia. According to surveys, in India, the growing demand for alcoholic beverages is mainly attributed to the huge young population base and their increasing alcohol consumption. Avneet Singh, founder of Gurdaspur-based Medusa Beverages, felt a need for a beer brand in the market that can cater to the needs of the younger crowd. The idea of starting Medusa brewed in 2016 when Singh started a food and drinks café. He shares, "I founded Medusa Beverages in April 2017 and began its operations in January 2018. While the brand made a turnover of Rs 70 crore in 2018, it clocked Rs 150 crore in 2019, clearly showcasing that there was a huge demand for craft beer across the country."
After achieving the goal of availability in six states Delhi, UP, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, Punjab, and Himachal, Medusa plans to add more states soon to make a PAN India presence. Medusa beer is available in 500 ml can, and in 330 ml and 650 ml bottles.
According to Singh, the Medusa team works on contract or lease manufacturing and is not planning to set up any brewery of its own. He explains, "We have a unit on a lease, and the brewery is based in Gurdaspur, a city in Punjab. I believe it's better to invest crores in brand development rather than investing in a brewery." Medusa has its in-house team of brewmasters who researched for almost a year and came up with the recipe.
The alcohol industry has many players in the market. Still, despite the huge competition, Medusa is able to place itself well in the market, as the brand has targeted a differentiated section altogether. Singh explains, "Medusa is a premium strong beer. It is completely a new segment introduced in the market. The brands available in the market are either strong or mild; Medusa beer is a part of mid-segment." The brand focuses on wheat and lager beer but will soon look to enter other markets as well.
Beer is one of the world's oldest alcoholic beverages, and it is also one of the most widely consumed alcoholic beverages. However, the beer industry's growth poses various challenges due to heavy government regulations, a ban on advertising, import duties across states, and beer distribution in 28 different states. Singh explains, "Distribution is partially organized in some states, and at places, government acts as a distributor to fair it through its own channels. Thus, distribution becomes a crucial challenge in the beer industry, and it is posing a hindrance in mounting its reach."
Impact of Covid-19
Covid-19 has affected all businesses across all sectors and has wreaked havoc, causing some companies to shut down. In the initial phase of lockdown, alcohol businesses were at a complete stop at one point, but the sales started gaining momentum after the government announced some relaxations on opening. However, like many other businesses, the alcohol industry was severely hit due to the pandemic. According to Singh, high fixed costs, cash crunch, imposed excise duty that were to be paid in advance, and inventory losses were some of the biggest challenges during the lockdown. However, he is hopeful of the industry's comeback and adds, "Alco beverage industry was always expected to bounce back with the re-opening of bars and restaurants, and it did. Beer offers a chance to socialize, and once again, we helped people accept the usual routine of life post fighting Covid-19."
Medusa beer is available in about 650 retail outlets in Delhi and high-end café in retail outlets with a distribution width of 90%. It is currently available in over 2000 retail outlets, with the brewery located in Punjab. The brand has recently expanded its boundaries and launched Medusa beer in Himachal Pradesh, including Shimla, McLeodGanj, and Manali. Singh expresses his thoughts on the expansion, "The beer industry is growing at par with the modernizing taste of the consumers, thus becoming more of a lifestyle beverage. I am glad that we are able to take Medusa to Himachal and hope to receive the same love for Medusa beer as we have received in other parts of the country. "