Brewing success: How Mannheim Brews made a name for itself in a niche market

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Mannheim Brews isn’t just an enterprise, but an ode to its founders’ biggest loves - craft beer and specialty coffee. It was this common love that made Naveen Menon, Nikhil Menon and Shankar Subramaniam — who come with over 20 years of experience each in diverse sectors such as corporate, logistics and alco-bev — start up Mannheim.

Speaking of the transition, Naveen, Co-founder at Mannheim, says, “The common theme for the founders and investors has been the love for craft, whether it is our specialty coffee or beer. Craft is all about quality, it focuses on processes to give customers the best end product. So getting out of corporate and launching Mannheim was an easy transition. It helped us do something we are truly passionate about.” Nikhil adds that their diverse backgrounds have actually helped them in scaling Mannheim Brews to what it is today. He says, “We wanted to get the best products out there. Our experience in fields like corporate and logistics has helped us add value to our products.”

A rant that started it all

While the founders always shared a love for craft, the thought of Mannheim Brews didn’t cross anyone’s mind until a rant in a taproom in the German city of Mannheim changed it all. The taproom, owned by a brewer and one of Mannheim Brews’ investors, became the venue where the team bemoaned the lack of good craft beers in Bengaluru and India at large, prompting the desire to start their own venture. It took time, but it led to the idea of a plug-and-play model of an Indo-German craft brewery.

“The theme was to capitalise on the strengths of the three partners from India (Jungbusch Ales India) as well as our partners from Germany (Taproom GmbH). While our German partners bring in their network of craft brewers from Germany and other regions of Europe to team up with us in the brewing process, the partners in India bring local knowledge and network of partner outlets like restaurants and microbrewery owners to the table, along with industry knowledge on equipment suppliers, raw material suppliers and government regulations,” Naveen says.

Backed by stringent processes and efforts of some of the best roasters and brewers in the world, the startup is driven by the philosophy ‘No crap on tap’. Speaking about the attention that goes into their services, Nikhil says, “Our beer is never brought down too early and we make sure the hygiene and sanitation of our tanks are always on point. Our brewers and assistant brewers ensure that the SOPs are practised and our product matches the guidelines set up by the master brewers.”

It isn’t a different story for Mannheim coffee either. Sourced from premium plantations in Chikmagalur, their coffee gets roasted to profiles created by expert roasters. The perfection takes time and only after trials do the coffee go out to their partners.

Both the verticals follow an asset-light approach through which the team ties up with restaurants to handle their entire set-up by providing equipment, expertise and a lot of operational support.

Birth of Mannheim Coffee

As a new addition to Mannheim’s portfolio, the coffee vertical and its roots go back to the city of Mannheim. Mannheim Brews recently partnered with coffee entrepreneurs in the German city who had been running cafes and bistros there and wanted to bring craft coffee to India. And given their mission of being a part of ‘all things craft’, coffee was a natural complement to their business.

The team’s German partners in the coffee vertical bring in parts of the capital and expertise in craft coffee, such as giving ideas for roast profiles. The Indian side works on sales, marketing, procuring the beans from various estates, sourcing machines and locations.

Coffee is an exciting part of the business simply because of the scope of its growth. Naveen reveals, “Specialty coffee is a growing market in India. So we are looking at the same model as our craft beer - the ‘asset-light’ approach. We have a tie-up with four restaurants in Bengaluru. From a scalability point of view, we are going to have an e-commerce store to sell our beans and coffee.” For their specialty coffee, Mannheim plans to utilise both B2B and B2C models, making their beans available at restaurants and cafes, while also forming a closer relationship with customers directly through their e-commerce store, set to launch in September.

Extending reach with a .in domain

The team always wanted its website to showcase the benefits of an ‘Indo-German’ collaboration. With a name inspired from the city that started it all, the founders wanted to highlight the aspect that re-emphasises the Indian side’s collaboration. “A .in extension helps us in how we want to channelise our marketing and branding. So our website signifies a German brand name with the attributes of German quality and efficiency, localised to the Indian market,” Naveen explains.

The online presence has also helped the brand to scale in a cost-efficient manner. Mannheim Brews is already present in two locations for its craft beer in just a year and a half, and four locations within three months for coffee.

Like Mannheim Brews, the National Internet Exchange for India (NIXI) is helping hundreds of startups across the country to get a .in or .Bharat domain. Apart from cost-effectiveness, another advantage of getting a domain name from NIXI is that one can choose from 22 languages. This will help businesses be more visible to the right audience.

Future plans

Mannheim Brews looks to increase its footprint for craft beers. The past one year and a half helped the brand establish itself well and the next logical step is to reach different locations in Bengaluru, followed by a pan-India presence. “We are looking at concepts of contract brewing. If an outlet owner needs access to brewers, our network can help and our platform can give them access,” the founders say.

The company has bigger plans for coffee as it is less capital intensive to launch, with a lot of scope for new products. Apart from beans, new products are constantly being launched and welcomed in the category. Coffee, they feel, is easier to sell and package, especially through online platforms as well as retail stores. The team is gearing to start its e-commerce shop with two types of coffee beans and cold brews.

“We have a roadmap as to where we want to be,” Naveen says, adding that they see a lot of growth in both categories and aim to be able to ride the wave.

The ‘Shaping India Inc's Online Growth’ series chronicles the journeys of startups and SMEs in India and how creating an online presence on the .in or .Bharat domain powered their success stories.


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