India can be champion of globalisation: Lord Karan Billimoria

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    By James Jose

    New Delhi, (IANS) London-based entrepreneur Lord Karan Bilimoria says India, his country of birth, is “making giant strides” and can be a beacon of globalisation in a time of global economic turmoil. He plans to expand his Cobra brand across India, particularly in “happening” Bihar, and believes the country will one day be the world’s second largest beer market.

    “As the West now continues to suffer a widespread economic crisis, there is an opportunity for India to become a champion of globalisation,” Bilimoria, who is part of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Global Advisory Council, told IANS in an interview here.

    “This was also one of the important points that emerged” at last week’s meeting of the distinguished panel in Jaipur that was held on the sidelilnes of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, he said.

    Bilimoria said that despite some setbacks in recent months on the reforms front such as the holding back of foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail and key legislation like the higher education bill not going through parliament, India’s prospects as a growing economic power were bright.

    “The intent to pass through key reforms is evident. In spite of some problems, India is making giant strides.”

    The founder of Cobra was gung-ho about Bihar’s prospects. Impressed by the transformation the state has undergone under the Nitish Kumar government in the past few years, he held the first board meeting of Molson Coors Cobra India, brewers of the iconic beer, in Patna Tuesday.

    Bilimoria, who holds a 49 percent stake in the company in India, said people were only just beginning to wake up to the opportunities that existed in Bihar. And that was the main reason for his company to set up its base in the state which is now being scaled up.

    “So much is happening in Bihar. In the last six and a half years, the state has undergone a complete change. It’s a state with 100 million people and luckily we are ahead of the game. It’s a huge market and we have seen it before others,” said Bilimoria.

    “The crime rates have gone down and the GDP growth of Bihar is higher than India’s … Bihar is our foundation, our base. And from there we are supplying to neighbouring states.”

    Bilimoria’s Cobra entered into a joint venture with US company Molson Coors in June 2011 to jointly brew and market the beer in India and overseas.

    Molson Coors Cobra has now ambitious expansion plans which include doubling capacity of the brewery in Bihar to four million tonnes by next month and trebling it within the year.

    Beer consumption in Bihar has gone up 10 times from an annual 700,000 cases five years back to about seven million currently.

    “The doubling of capacity is almost complete, well in time for the summer season. If the summer goes well then by the end of July we will start with the next phase of expansion which will increase capacity more than three times than what it is today,” said Bilimoria.