Javed Murad, Founder of White Owl Brewery

Last Call by | Jan 2016 | Issue #108

Add Mumbai to the list of beer destinations to watch. Bustling with a young, jet-setting crowd, Mumbai’s scene is luring in entrepreneurial beer geeks like Javed Murad, who navigated the tight regulations and cutthroat real estate market to launch White Owl Brewery. Born and raised in Mumbai, the Harvard Business School grad got used to easy access to craft beer while living in the US. But in India, craft is scarce. With a recent wave of brewery openings in Mumbai and the neighboring city of Pune, that’s changing—and Murad is one of a handful of pioneers leading the movement.

What inspired you to launch a brewery?
The complete absence of craft beer in India presented a compelling opportunity, especially when compared to the broader US and European markets, where handcrafted, artisanal brews are well established and widely available products, and part and parcel of any beer drinker’s consumption choice. It was clear to me that we needed to create this segment within the Indian market and quickly, which subsequently led to the founding of White Owl Brewery.

Describe the brewing scene in Mumbai.
It is growing and exciting. Mumbai has a wide array of consumers ranging from those who are very well traveled and exposed—and extremely happy to have readily available craft beer—to those who are naturally curious and always thrilled to try something new. Throw a few experimental brews into the mix, and we have a lot of overall excitement for and chatter about craft beer.

Why did you decide to open a brewery in your hometown?
Mumbai was an obvious choice to launch White Owl Brewery, not just because it is my home market but also because it houses an incredibly large and vibrant consumer base. That said, it is also a very challenging place to do business due to higher input costs and competition when compared to the rest of the country. Proving ourselves here will go a long way in realizing our national expansion plan.

Which styles have been popular?
Halcyon, our classic German Hefeweizen, and Diablo, our Irish Red Ale, are incredibly popular and are our highest-selling brews. Ace, a dry apple cider, Torpedo, an American Pale Ale, and Shadow, an English Porter, also do remarkably well. The more complex beers are still finding their way to the Indian palate, and we intend to launch such styles gradually as the market evolves in parallel with the overall craft beer category.

What do you see for the future of White Owl?
Our mantra is to maximize the awareness and availability of our White Owl beer across the country, beginning with Mumbai. We are already on tap at over 20 locations across the city with many more confirmed locations in the pipeline. We will begin pouring at a few select locations in Pune shortly. Early next year, we aim to launch a packaged version of our craft beer that will allow us to tap into wider and more traditional distribution. We are also evaluating a couple of exciting geographies in both North and South India, and expect to enter these markets shortly. All in all, we are keeping ourselves very busy, but are also having a lot of fun in doing so.