Born On: 26 November, 1961
Born In: Hyderabad, India
If the ability of a good entrepreneur is to bounce back from pits and falls, then Karan Bilimoria should be that one man who did so and passed in flying colors. Having started his journey to the top at the age of twenty-seven, he worked hard to carve a path for himself in the world of beers. He finally ended up as the founder of Cobra beer which enjoys a considerably huge turnover and is one of the fastest growing beer brands in the United Kingdom. With sheer hard work and determination, Karan Bilimoria achieved the life of his dreams and even went on to become a member of the House of Lords in England. Bilimoria's profile will leave you wondering a lot on how he found the time to do an endless number of things in life. He is the hands - on executive of Cobra Beer, apart from being at the helm of numerous organisations and charitable institutions.
Karan Bilimoria was born on 26th November, 1961 to Lieutenant Colonel F.N.Bilimoria in a Parsi Zoroastrian family in Hyderabad. He grew up hearing the fascinating stories of his great grandfather D.D.Italia who started a liquor business from scratch. He studied in several schools as a boy since he was born into a military family. However, he completed his education at Hebron School, in the Nilgiri Hils in India. He finished a degree in commerce from the Osmania University in Hyderabad in 1981. Then, he went on to become a chartered accountant for Ernst and Young, where he got trained and worked for four years. In the meantime, he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in Law from Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge.
Soon after he completed his education, Karan Bilimoria set out to try his hand in business as it was his passion. He started selling polo sticks made in India to retailers from U.K. His family was not supportive of his business as they believed that he had the education to find himself a secure job. However, he always knew he would find a suitable business that would fulfill his dreams. It was in 1989 when he got the idea to manufacture a beer that would be less grassy than conventional beers and a brew that can balance the curry-laden diets of his countrymen. With no experience in brewing and over 20, 000 pound sterling's in debt, he went on to form 'Panther' ( the name was changed to 'Cobra' later) along with his partner Arjun Reddy. Arjun's uncle introduced them to Mysore Breweries in India. Soon, their new beer was brewed and was ready to be sold. Having some experience in sales from his previous polo project, Karan visited pubs and restaurants all over India with the samples of his new brew. However, he found out that many of the owners to whom he was trying to sell the brew did not drink due to religious reasons. He then offered his beer to the regulars of his establishments and this turned out to be an instant success. He brewed Cobra first in Bangalore in India till 1996. Then, in order to capture the U.K. market, he decided to start brewing beer in England along with the Charles Wells Brewery, which is the largest brewery in United Kingdom. His hands on approach enabled Cobra Beer to enter the competitive world wide market. In 1999, he introduced General Bilimoria Wines and by 2006, the sales grew to over 96 million pound sterling. In 2010, Cobra Beer posted a recorded sale of 48 million pound sterling with a profit of 4.9 million pound sterling. At present, the company imports its products to more than 50 countries.
Today, Bilimoria is known as Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea and reached the same heights as did his great grandfather, whose stories he loved to hear when he was a child.
Contributions and Achievements
Karan Bilimoria came up with a program in 2005 called Cobra Vision which allowed amateur film makers in the United Kingdom to screen their films during commercial TV. In 2005, he was appointed the Chancellor of Thames Valley University and became the youngest Chancellor of a university in the United Kingdom. Karan Bilimoria is also the member of a National Employment Panel and is the Chairman of the panel's Small and Medium Sized Enterprise Board (SME). He is the Deputy Lieutenant of Great Britain and a member of the London Chamber of Commerce. He also works as a guest lecturer at the Cranfield University School of Management, London Business School and Cambridge University Business School. His company has won numerous gold medals at premiere international events in Brussels.
Karan Bilimoria is into charitable activities too. He is the patron of Thare Mache Starfish Initiative and the Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba Memorial Trust which takes care of the education of children of financially challenged widows in India. Bilimoria also has authored a book namely 'Bottled for Business: The Less Gassy Guide to Entrepreneurship'.
Awards and Accolades
Asian of the Year, 2002
London Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young, 2003
Commander of the British Empire (CBE), 2004
Business Person of the Year by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 2004
Award for Outstanding Achievement by Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, 2005
Indo British Partnership Award from the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) Institute, 2005
Man of the Year at the Drinks Business Awards, 2006
Honorary doctorates by Brunel University (2005), Heriot-Watt University and Staffordshire University
1961: Karan Bilimoria was born in Hyderabad.
1981: Finished his degree in commerce at the Osmania University in Hyderabad.
1988: Completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in law at Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge.
1989: Started a beer company that manufactured beer which was less grassy than conventional beers. The beer was initially named 'Panther'.
1990: The name of the beer was changed to 'Cobra' and it was imported to the U.K.
1996: Brewing moved to the U.K.
1999: Introduced General Bilimoria Wines.
2002: Opens offices in India and New York.
2003: Opens offices in South Africa and production moves to Poland too.
2004: Exports Cobra beer as 'Krait' to the United States of America.
2006: Bilimoria becomes Executive Chairman of his company as Adrian McKeon takes over as Chief Executive Officer.