Welcome to the Less Gassy Guide to Entrepreneurship video podcast, a series of free videos from Karan Bilimoria, the inspirational founder and Chief Executive of Cobra Beer and author of Bottled for Business. In each episode he’ll take you through one of his top 10 tips for starting and growing your business, with some great advice for anyone who’s ever had an idea and thought “wow, wouldn’t it be great if someone did that?” Well, why can’t that someone be you? This podcast is packed with fascinating insights into going against the grain and building your own business, from someone who’s been there and done it. To turn £20,000 of debt student into a multi-million pound business takes either a miracle or a lot of hard work. It really puts the old saying “where there’s a will there’s a way” to the ultimate test. But Karan Bilimoria did just that. Starting out in 1989, the young ex-pat Indian spotted a gap in the market for a less gassy, extra smooth beer that would pair well with food and that would appeal to ale and lager drinkers alike. Although Karan was a qualified chartered accountant and a Cambridge law graduate, and looked set for another ho-hum professional career, the path of entrepreneurship beckoned. Like so many entrepreneurs with big dreams and no cash, he didn’t get a lot of encouragement at first. After all, he had no experience in the brewing industry, and was looking to launch a new brand in the world’s most competitive beer market, the UK. Add the fact that he was up against long-established giants and that a recession had just begun, and the whole venture looked like stark madness. For an accountant, you’d think he would have known better. But motivated by his vision, “to aspire and achieve against all odds, with integrity”, Karan set out to make his dream a reality. His original mission – to brew the finest ever Indian beer and to make it a global beer brand – is coming ever closer to fruition. Cobra is now one of the UK’s fastest growing beer brands, with sales to nearly 50 countries and a valuation of £110 million. Karan holds a great number of public and private appointments and in June 2006 he was appointed the Lord Bilimoria, of Chelsea, by the independent Appointments Commission, and sits on the crossbenches in the House of Lords. He has also won numerous awards in recognition of his business achievements and charitable work, including the RSA’s Albert Medal in the Society’s 250th anniversary year, 2004 and Entrepreneur of the Year 2003. From aspiration to achievement, Cobra Beer is one of Britain’s great entrepreneurial success stories. It is also very much Karan’s story, and in his book, Bottled for Business, and in this video podcast, he shares this inspiring tale with wit, honesty … and a little less gas.
In this episode, Karan talks about the importance of having passion and belief in your brand. He recounts his first visit to the brewery in India where he pitched his idea for Cobra – and against all odds convinced a sceptical management team to back him.
In this episode, Karan talks about the importance of balancing growth with responsibility. He speaks about ethics and how business can make a positive contribution to the world - including a surprising example of how Cobra Beer bottles are recycled!
In this episode, Karan talks about the importance of doing things differently and changing marketplaces. He gives the example of how Cobra overcame resistance to the size of its bottles in the UK by converting a disadvantage into an advantage.
In this episode, Karan talks about the importance of taking a long term view. He recounts what he was doing as the first container of Cobra Beer arrived in the UK – planning for the next five years, and his Grand Canyon 10 year plan.
In this episode, Karan talks about the importance of taking the lead and not following the herd. He talks about how Cobra Beer has stayed one step ahead - including insight into Cobra’s filmmaking competition, CobraVision.
In this episode, Karan talks about the importance of having a mission. He talks about how he came up with the idea for Cobra Beer, despite never having sold a bottle of beer in his life and the mission for his brand which makes it unstoppable.
In this episode, Karan talks about building a great team around you. You may be good, but you need to surround yourself with the best. Karan offers one of the secrets of entrepreneurship – employ people who are better than you.
In this episode, Karan talks about focus and commitment. He talks about how it feels to have all the odds stacked against you, when you have no money left in the bank, and the hard work needed to make your business work.
In this episode, Karan talks about how to be creative. He explains what creativity actually means – that it’s nothing to do with being artistic, but being endlessly inventive and resourceful – like coming up with the idea to make beer like champagne.
In this episode, Karan talks about having a vision and how that differs from the mission. The vision is the ‘why?’ that underlies everything you do. Karan talks about the origin of Cobra Beer motto – ‘to aspire and achieve against all odds with integrity'