This entrepreneur couple is creating a buzz with their non-alcoholic beer brand

Coolberg, founded by Yashika and Pankaj Aswani, offers a range of non-alcoholic beer targeted at millennials.
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Born and raised in a family of entrepreneurs from Jaipur, Yashika Keswani has always been fascinated by the burgeoning consumer product industry.

“I have seen my father and grandfather working hard on different consumer and B2B products, including core manufacturing setups. After completing my MBA in 2015, running business has always been on my mind. Mumbai gave a lot of opportunities and talent, which helped me to kickstart my own FMCG venture and take it to the next level,” she says.

Yashika Keshwani - Co-founder, Coolberg

Along with her husband Pankaj Aswani, she launched CoolBerg, which offers a range of non-alcoholic beers, in 2016.

“We realised that the soft drink industry was in dire need of new options, which are refreshing and can tango with Indian youth. Millennials have been drinking the same cola drinks from their school days. We felt consumers were looking for drinks that just do not curb the thirst or cravings but are also part of their lifestyle. That is how we conceptualised flavourful non-alcoholic beers with the brand name ‘Coolberg’ and introduced it to the Indian market,” she explains.

Coolberg non-alcoholic beers are made of barley malt and fermented partially to get the right taste and texture. Yashika says it tastes closer to the real beer but does not contain any alcohol. Other variants like cranberry, peach, ginger, etc., are sweet and contains added flavours to match Indian taste buds.

After finalising the recipes, Yashika and Pankaj were aware that distribution of the products was the toughest part of the journey.

“Our first challenge was to launch a product with an MRP twice of that of other soft drinks available in the market. Thankfully, premium features like packaging and the quality of drink helped us on-board the first few customers in Mumbai early on that give us a lot of confidence,” Yashika adds.

Creating a fizz

After four years since its launch, Coolberg is now available in 25,000 stores across the country. It is generally sold in supermarkets, grocery stores, cafes, restaurants, colleges, airports, and online platforms.

A Chartered Accountant by profession, Pankaj looks after sales and numbers while Yashika oversees operations and marketing.

The revenue in the soft drinks segment in India is projected to reach $4,932 million in 2021 and the market is expected to grow annually by 9.0 percent (CAGR 2021-2025), according to Statista.

Besides Tier I cities, Yashika says Coolberg consumers also span across Tier II and Tier III cities.

“Millennials are aspirational across India and they are looking for the best product and best experience. Our core age group ranges from 18 to 30 years,” she says.

At present, the brand has partnered with more than 250 distributors who supply to various point of sales. It also supplies directly to the end consumer via various online platforms.

While there are leading brands like Heineken, Kingfisher, and Budweiser in the market, Yashika says their aim is to reach their products to as many people as possible.

In 2019, Coolberg raised Series A funding of $3.5 million led by RB Investments (Singapore-based family office) and its existing investor, India Quotient. The round also saw participation from Ashish Goenka, Chairman of Suashish Diamonds Ltd, and a pool of investors from Indian Angel Network (IAN).

“We have been growing 3x year on year since the beginning of the venture. The pandemic delayed the growth for last year, but we still managed to maintain the previous year's sales,” she says.

The founders are working towards increasing brand coverage to at least 50,000 outlets in 2021. In addition, they are looking forward to increasing brand awareness and recall.

“I guess ‘passion’ is a big word and a big motivator. If we truly own what we do and what we want to do, no one can stop us,” Yashika says.

Edited by Megha Reddy

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