Cobra beer owner Lord Bilimoria says these 3 things kept his business afloat during financial crises

Lord bilimoria
Lord Bilimoria, founder of Cobra beer. Cobra Beer

Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea was made a peer in 2007, largely because of the success of his beer business, Cobra.

The drink, which mixes the smoothness of an ale with the refreshing taste of a lager, was designed specifically to go well with Indian food.

It’s now sold in more than 96% of curry restaurants across the UK.

However creating a beer brand from scratch was not easy.

“I nearly lost my business three times,” Lord Bilimoria told Business Insider. “In the early days we were continually running out of money.”

The most recent occasion was in 2009, resulting from the global financial crisis, when Cobra went into administration.

However the business stayed afloat: 50.1% of Cobra was sold to beer giant Molson Coors, with Bilimoria and other shareholders retaining the other 49.9%. Now the brand has a global retail value of around £250 million ($366 million.)

Lord Bilimoria told Business Insider the three things that kept Cobra beer alive during its darkest days:

1. Branding

Even though Cobra’s bottom line has struggled at various points over the years, it managed to find a niche market which no other beer brand had exploited, allowing its top line to continue rising.

“Not once during those crises did the sales of Cobra ever decline,” Lord Bilimoria said. “They always grew, even if there was slower growth.”

For Lord Bilimoria “an extraordinary brand is a brand that has undeniable brand truth. A brand that has an instantly recognisable brand look.”

2. A loyal team

Lord Bilimoria explained that his strong team, who support both the brand and himself, were crucial.

“I’ve got a very loyal team, some of them have been with me almost since the beginning,” Lord Bilimoria said.

“One of my team members has been with us for 25 years.”

The Lord of Chelsea also praised his wife and family “My wife and family’s support helped see me through. [My wife] saw all the ups and downs and stood by me.”

3. Values and integrity

The final reason Lord Bilimoria gave for being able to survive crises was retaining honest “values and integrity.”

He said he “played with a straight bat” throughout times of difficulty, giving interviews and talking openly about the company’s situation.

Lord Bilimoria said:”The best definition of integrity that I’ve heard came from Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury and now master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, who told me it comes from the Latin word integritas , which means ‘wholeness’.”

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