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Understanding Early Adopters - The Bira story

Updated: Aug 1, 2022

For a while now, I had been looking for a good way to explain the concept of early adopters.

As part of that search, I looked for an industry where im an early adopter leading me to Beers!


We then try to understand the behaviour of an early adopter by analysing my actions involving beers and Bira 91! 🍻


We then look at the key things Bira 91 did really well to reach their early adopters and then move on to the early majority.


If you would rather read than watch, a lightly edited version of the transcript is below!



As a part of that, I asked myself what was I an early adopter for and what my behavior was as an early adopter, hoping to find a good relatable story!


I looked at my technology usage and realized that while I was probably part of the early adopter crowd for smartphones and apps in India back in the day, Im no longer one. Now I use a 3 year old piece of a 5-6 year old model! So no luck there!!!


Upon more introspection I realized that I was and continue to be an early adopter for 2 things!


First is Music.


With music, I had setup a DLNA based wireless FLAC streaming setup at home using a private cloud storage, before music streaming over the internet was really a thing. And, when Apple Music launched lossless streaming in India, I was probably one of the first users to enable it! But that field is too geeky to be relatable!


The second though is far more interesting – Alcohol! My experimenting with alcohol in general and beers in particular, has got a lot of interesting chapters rich for stories!


The Main Protagonist

Before I get into the story, let me give a bit of background about the main protagonist – BIRA 91!


BIRA 91 is a VC funded startup head quartered in New Delhi. In early 2015, they started operations by launching 2 beers – BIRA White and BIRA Blonde - in New Delhi. By November 2015, they launched in Bangalore. Today, BIRA 91 is said to be one of the fastest growing beer brands in the world, with a very strong presence across India!


The Market

The most popular brand of beer across India has been Kingfisher for the longest time. Each region or state had its own local brands like British Empire in Tamil Nadu, High Voltage in the Andamans, Kings beer in Goa and so on…


Imported beers such as Hoegarden and Corona are available in Tier 1 cities and costs about 4 times the price of Kingfisher.


The Story

With some of that context set lets get on with the story!


This was back in November/ December 2015, when I was working with Sabre.


I used to have work calls till late night Monday to Thursday. On Friday evenings I would not do any calls. The routine at the time was that on my way back from work on Friday evenings, I would stop at my friendly neighborhood liquor store and pick up 4 bottles of Hoegaarden. My wife and I would sip those over dinner and wind down for the weekend!


On one of those stops at the end of 2015, I noticed a new brand of beer right next to the Hoegaardens called BIRA! The bottle looked kind of interesting – with a picture of a monkey. I picked it up to read the story on the label. Something I love to do :-) Turned out that it was an Indian beer being manufactured in Belgium! The price was double that of a Kingfisher, but around half of a Hoegaarden. And it was a wheat beer!


I asked the friendly shop owner what he knew about the beer and he said it was a new beer! Very helpful 😃


So I picked up 3 Hoegaardens, 1 Bira White and went home. The Bira White turned out to be really good! Next week I picked up 4 Bira whites instead of 4 Hoegaardens!


The week after that I picked up a crate and threw a party for a few friends where the beer being served was BIRA. Over the next few weeks, we had a couple of parties with different social circles, but the beer was always BIRA.


And more people found out about BIRA, liked it and BIRA started to gain popularity and marketshare!!!


Once the demand started growing, BIRA’s India factory became operational and they were able to drop their prices significantly!


Me though, was always looking for the next interesting brew! With BIRA as the staple, I kept trying different brands like White Owl, Simba, Eight Finger Eddie, White Rhino, Hopper and what not!


But sometime in late 2019, I "felt" a slight change in the flavor profile the BIRA, didn’t like the change, and stopped buying it altogether!


Then I hit another jackpot in 2020 - Geist! Giest is this brew factory right next to my home. They were selling 2 litre Growlers that you could take home and the Geist Growler became the next staple!


And in Jan 2021 I stopped drinking beer altogether and only drink fresh lime soda now!!! But I go the store every now and then and continue to pick up new brands for my friends and family to try!


Key Learnings

1. Just because you are an early adopter for one industry (beer in my case), does not mean that you would be an early adopter for another industry (tech). But likely to be an early adopter with related industries such as food. For example, when eating out at a new restaurant, I usually order the most exotic sounding item on the menu!


2. Early adopters love to take a few risks. They want to make sure they don’t miss out on the next big thing – like I picked up a BIRA though I had gone it to buy a Hoegaarden.


3. Early adopters love to show off their interesting finds to others who they think might benefit from that. So you can count on them to get the word of mouth going – like me throwing Bira parties!


4. Early adopters are likely to drop you just as easily as they picked you up – for the next cool thing or because of a perceived drop in quality. Don’t expect everlasting loyalty. So you may want to considering moving on to the early majority, who are more likely to be loyal. Even though Bira was my staple, I kept trying other beers on the side, and I left Bira because of a perceived changed in flavor profile!


What BIRA did well


1. They targeted their early adopters really well

  1. people who had already moved on from Kingfisher

  2. didn’t mind paying a premium

These are people who were buying imported beers in india. By positioning their product next to the imported beers, they got noticed. For example the Bira white, a wheat beer, was kept right next to Hoegaardens, an imported wheat beer!


2. The quality of the product – The quality was top notch and the early adopters went about spreading the word and doing the marketing for BIRA!


3. They started with production in Belgium, probably at an outsourced manufacturing facility. This resulted in higher costs initially due to transportation and taxes. But this helped them validate demand without investing in setting up a local factory! Once the market demand was established, they setup a local manufacturing facility which helped with cost reduction, which was critical for mass market appeal!


 

Regardless of whether you are launching a new product or a new feature for an existing product to grow in a new market, you want to identify your Early Adopters and target them with your offering.


If you would like to bounce off ideas on targeting your early adopters, lets chat over a fresh lime soda 😃


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