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Arbor Brewing Company

114 E Washington
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Rene & Matt Greff

Matt and Rene Greff never considered themselves international entrepreneurs. They Ypsilanti couple and owners of Arbor Brewing Co never really had much interest in traveling to around the world, besides to Europe and sunny places.

So when Gaurav Sikka, a University of Michigan student and former Arbor Brewing Co patron, approached the Greffs in 2009 about opening a franchise of their downtown Ann Arbor-based brewpub in India, the idea wasn’t exactly on their radar. Two years later they were practically living in Bangalore, working on ABC India, the name for Arbor Brewing Co's India franchise.

Getting ABC India up and running took much longer and involved more culture clashes than the Greffs and Sikka ever imagined. The brewpub, the second of its kind in Bangalore, began selling it own beers early in 2013 and has been a massive hit ever since.

A big part of the reason is cold beer on tap is a newer concept in India. Most beer served in India is warm, and what few foreign beers there are old, warm and stale. If bars do have beers on tap, its one tap pumping beer that has been warm several times over.

"And that's part of the reason why we’re so popular and brew pubs are so popular," Matt Greff says. "You walk in and there are eight beers on tap. That is completely unheard of in India."

That's mainly because modern refrigeration systems don't exist en masse in India. Beer, by and large, isn't kept in coolers and tap systems don’t exist. "Bars that have drafts have one king fisher tower and one little cooler for the king fisher keg," Rene Greff says. "And that's it. They don't have the infrastructure to do draft beer."

While that barrier of entry makes ABC India a big hit in Bangalore, it also limits its success. The Greffs and Sikka sling beers for hours upon hours each day to standing-room-only crowds at their 12,000-square-foot facility, but that's not the same as selling to every household in Bangalore.

"Craft beer distribution would be hard in India because you're dealing with a situation where there is no refrigeration," Matt Greff says. "The second it leaves your place it's going to be warm. It’s not going to be in a refrigerated truck. It's not going to be in a refrigerator in stores."

But there is still an amazingly large pool of customers to draw from and Arbor Brewing Co is on the ground floor of it. Bangalore has a population of 9 million people with about 100,000 Indians who have studied in the west or are ex-patriots and have a taste for cold, craft beer. The Greffs estimate there are about 500,000 to 800,000 Indians with disposable income. Since Bangalore is one of the continent’s main business centers, doubling that number thanks to business travelers and tourists isn’t out of the question.

"What sliver of that is your market?" Matt Greff says. "A small percent of a massive market is still a pretty big number."

Which is why the Greffs and Sikka plan to spend the start of 2014 evaluating other business opportunities in India. Those include opening other brewpubs in the sprawling metropolis of Bangalore.

"In Bangalore you can put in three Arbor Brewing Cos and not cannibalize any business," Matt Greff says. "The traffic bad that it’s hard to get around and the city is so sprawling huge that people would have no qualms about staying in their neighborhood as opposed to driving an hour."

They are also looking at other major cities in India or even elsewhere in Asia.

"All throughout Asia, there is just huge demand," Rene Greff says.

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