Company Name – Kingfisher
Founder – United Breweries (UB)
Undoubtedly one of the most popular and controversial companies based in Bengaluru, India, Kingfisher is famous for its extensive range of beers since 1857 under the umbrella of the United Breweries in Bengaluru’s UB City. Apart from internationally-acclaimed beers and a discontinued airline service, Kingfisher is widely known in the glam world internationally for the annual Kingfisher Bikini Calendar since 2003.
The successor of Vittal Mallya, the first Chairmen of Kingfisher is Vijay Mallya, who is currently the CEO of the company.
How It All Started
Owned by the UB group or UBHL (United Breweries Holdings Limited), Kingfisher started its journey in 1915 when five breweries were set up in south India by founder of UB Group –Thomas Leishman. The five breweries were named as Bangalore Brewing Co. (1885), Castle Brewery and Nilgiris Breweries (1857), BBB Brewery Co. Ltd (1913) and British Brewing Co. (1903).
At this time, the brews were not labeled as of Kingfisher but in 1944, the first beer bottle is introduced to the market with the label of “Exports Beer”. The beers thus produced, abided by the brewing lessons from British Breweries in South India.
Vittal Mallya at just 22 years of age was elected for the designation of UB Group’s 1st Indian Director (1947) and he was elected as Chairman in the following year. Initially before Indian independence, the brew company used to transport Hogsheads of beer to British troops and in 1950. The Kingfisher, made its debut during 1960’s and soon became the most profitable and viable brand of UB Group.
It was 1950 when Bangalore, now Bengaluru was selected as headquarters of UB Group beers and after ten years, in the opulent city of Kalyani in West Bengal, Kalyani Breweries made its debut. Kesarwal Beverages in 1965 in Goa and High Range Breweries in 1972 in Cherthala, Kerala were also set up.
As a matter of fact, the beers were still not being manufactured under the name of Kingfisher. In 1974, the UB Group decided to export its products to the Middle East countries and Aden. After the establishment of Punjab Breweries in Ludhiana in 1978, in the same year, Kingfisher was introduced to the market for the first time with the product named Kingfisher Premium.
It was not before 1981, that the canned beer of Kingfisher was launched in the Indian market and in the following year, the board of directors finally was successful in launching the Kingfisher Lager in the USA and UK. Vittal Mallya’s son, Dr. Vijay Mallya was elected as Chairman in 1983.
Kingfisher’s marketing strategy and interesting reasons behind its success
- After the grand launching of Kingfisher Premium, kingfisher Lager and the canned beer, Vijay Mallya decided to create an amalgamation of the breweries namely Punjab Breweries, Kalyani Breweries, Kesarval Beverages and High Range Breweries to integrate them into United Breweries.
- After acquiring Premier Breweries in 1994, Bombay Breweries was acquired in 1996. The all-time sensational Kingfisher Strong was launched in 1999 and supposedly this was the foundation of rave success of Kingfisher.
- In the following year, Kingfisher acquired Mangalore Breweries and Associated Breweries. After acquiring Inertia Industries in 2001, Kingfisher changed its name to Millennium Beer.
- By this time, Kingfisher had schemed to separate its brewery business into a new entity completely and hence, it started a partnership with McDowell Alcobev Ltd and Scottish & Newcastle UK and changed the name to MAPL –Millennium Alcobev Pvt. Ltd. Empee Breweries and GMR Breweries after being acquired by Kingfisher, became MAPL’s subsidiaries.
- A strategic alliance was set up with Scottish & Newcastle where it acquired equity shares and became equal promoter of UB. In 2005, Mangalore Breweries was partnered with UB and once Karnataka Breweries was acquired and amalgamated along with London Draft Pubs and London Pilsner Breweries.
- Full-fledged brewing under Greenfield Breweries helped in experimentation with new products like Kingfisher Blue (2008), Kingfisher Ultra (2009), Kingfisher Ultra Max (2015), Kingfisher Buzz (2016) and Kingfisher Storm (2017). Since 2007, the Greenfield Breweries had been in fully operational state in Khurda (Odisha), Chopanki (Rajasthan), Nanjungud in Karnataka, Naubatpur in Bihar and Sangareddy District in Andhra Pradesh.
- Heineken as promoter of the United Breweries since 2009, started operation in India under UB management. By 2011, MAPL along with its 4 breweries, Nizam Breweries, Associated Breweries, Ajanta Breweries, Chennai Breweries were amalgamated into United Breweries and Heineken Beer was also manufactured under its management.
Under the manufacturer United Breweries, Kingfisher also has its European branch named as Kingfisher Beer Europe Ltd or KBE which has its headquarters in Maidstone in Kent. Under the tagline of “The Real Taste Of India” this company pays tribute to its rich heritage and highlights the Indian signature recipe of brewing. Initially KBE sold only Kingfisher Premium but in 2016-17, its campaign led it to launch products like Peacock Cider (apple cider with Asian flavors), Pearl River Beer and Bintang Beer.
The campaigning for each product by Kingfisher have made it listed among the top brewing companies in India and the products thus campaigned over the years are –
- Kingfisher Strong brewed with authentic malted hops
- Kingfisher Ultra campaigned for Indian Derby 2015-2016
- Kingfisher Ultra Max in golden and black hues made from authentic Pilsen, campaigned for Dart Championship
- Kingfisher Storm with tagline of Live The Swag Life
- Kingfisher Buzz, malt-based beverage
- Kingfisher Blue campaigned in 2008 for adventures like Rishikesh-Chopta rafting, Delhi-Leh bike trip, Mt Everest Basecamp trekking and Watersports in Andaman-Nicobar Islands.
There is also the Kingfisher Radler –the newest release of soft drink with 30% less sugar, 0% alcohol and 100% organic ingredients. Lemon, Ginger Lime and Mint Lime are three available flavors.
Since 2003, with the support from ace model-photographer Atul Kasbekar, Kingfisher has been publishing its annual calendar featuring newcomer and renowned models in swimsuits and that too in exotic locations from Mauritius to French Riviera, Thailand to Australia, Andamans to Maldives and so on. The 2018 calendar shoot was done in Croatia and it features models like Ishika Sharma, Priyanka Moodley, Mitali Rannorey and Priyanka Kasrunakaran.
The Kingfisher Supermodels, annual model hunt had started in 2010 and the calendar campaigning has been significant force in advancing modeling and acting careers of artists like Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif, Yana Gupta, Nargis Fakhri, Lisa Haydon, Bruna Abdullah and Karishma Kotak.
Not only in India but Kingfisher Beer company has spread its wings in fifty-two other countries across the globe. Kingfisher has been a proud operator of national and international airlines named as Fly Kingfisher Airlines, which ceased flight services in October, 2012, followed by revoking of license in February, 2013.
Be it for premium lagers, alcoholic beverages and soft-drinks, or for the sensationally sensuous Kingfisher Calendar, the company surely knows how to keep its reputation high even in the time of controversies.