It was the late 19th century. Beer was delivered in bullock carts in casks called “hogsheads“. Consumers were mostly defense personnel. Over hundred years have passed. Beer from United Breweries is now delivered all over the world, catering to the needs of consumers across generations and continents. From modest, local beginnings, the UB Group has transformed into a global conglomerate.
The early days
The Castle Brewery which dates back to 1857 (the year of the Indian mutiny) was set up for the European planters scattered over the Nilgiris. So was the Nilgiris Brewery Company. The British Brewing Corporation set up in Madras (1902) catered to the elite of the port town of Madras while the Bangalore Brewery Company had been supplying beer for the troops stationed at Pune and Bangalore since 1885.
The Company’s brewing tradition has a legacy of nearly 130 eventful years. Along its journey through the global Alcoholic Beverages landscape, UBL has consistently influenced business paradigms, beer-drinking habits and conventional mindsets. One man played a pivotal role in the Group’s growth – Vittal Mallya who was elected to the Board of Directors of UBL in 1947 at the age of 22 and a year later became its Chairman. Bangalore has been at the core of UBL’s existence. The Registered Office of UBL was shifted to Bangalore in June 1952, into the spacious 22-acre factory of the Bangalore Brewery Company. The Bangalore Brewery buildings, dating as far back as 1885, have since given way to newer construction. The only relic that still stands is the present godown adjacent to the UB Towers building, which earlier housed the bottling cellars, pasteurizing and packing departments. The five acres of land across the road donated to the Jesuit Society now forms the campus of St Joseph’s Indian High School.
In 1951, United Breweries Limited added liquor to its product cabinet when McDowells became its first subsidiary. Under the dynamic guidance of Vittal Mallya, the Company became the first to manufacture Indian substitutes of foreign liquor. This gave rise to a new term – IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor). McDowell has since then been the undisputed market leader and one of the largest and fastest moving consumer goods companies in the country. Vittal Mallya was not a man to rest on his laurels. He continued to pursue opportunities in the Alcoholic Beverages business and at the same time diversified into Polymers and Batteries in addition to Pharmaceuticals and Foods that the Company had been making till then.
All those who knew Vittal Mallya remember him for his simplicity. And his excellent acumen of accounting, a trait which helped the Dhaka-born Mallya invest heavily in shares of the United Breweries in the late 40s with an eye on its eventual acquisition. Old-timers fondly recall how he remembered his son's losing one paise while playing and registered the amount against his account.
Youngest of the three children of an army doctor [Lt Col Bantwal Ganapathi Mallya], Mallya capped an outstanding academic career with two of India's most prestigious educational institutions (Doon School and Presidency College) and traveled abroad for over two years to gain first-hand, practical knowledge that he believed to be more valuable than formal education.
Mallya initially operated out of Calcutta and married much later after he had become the chairman of United Breweries. He migrated to Bangalore with his wife, Lalitha Ramaiah and son, Vijay in 1958.
Despite ill-health that followed a massive heart attack at a relatively young age of 39, Mallya slowly and steadily built the UB Empire and diversified into a host of allied businesses.
His exemplary business acumen was evident when he defied all odds to acquire a host of breweries during the heady days of prohibition of the Janata Party regime of Morarji Desai.
In the 80s, Mallya started handing over the mantle of control - primarily beer and spirits - of the large UB Empire to his son, Vijay, whom he had sent to the United States and England to train with some of the best global corporations. At the same time, he encouraged his son to expand the business beyond the shores of India and subsequently opened offices in New York and London.
Till his death in 1983, Mallya remained the idol of millions who adored him for his tenacity in understanding people both rich and poor. The current UB headquarters is located on Vittal Mallya Road in Bangalore, fondly named after one of its illustrious leaders.
The UB Group is one of India’s largest conglomerates with annual sales of over US$ 4 billion and a market capitalization of approximately US$ 12 billion. The Group has diverse interests in brewing, distilling, real estate, engineering, fertilizers, biotechnology, information technology and aviation. It is also the largest Indian manufacturer of beverage alcohol (beer and spirits). Dr. Vijay Mallya is the Chairman of the Group.
Dr. Mallya, was elected by shareholders as Chairman of UB in 1983, at the age of 28. He previously assisted his father, the former Chairman, who passed away in the same year. Prior to being entrusted with the responsibilities of a classical Indian corporate conglomerate, Dr. Mallya worked for the American Hoechst Corporation (now Sanofi-Aventis) in the USA and with Jenson & Nicholson in the U.K. Since 1980, he assisted his father, the then Chairman of The UB Group, in managing the important Brewing and Spirits Divisions and in re-launching the Kingfisher Brand of Beer. In 1983, the sales volume of the UB Spirits division was approximately 2.85 million cases and UB’s beer business trailed behind that of Golden Eagle from Mohan Meakins.
Also included in the Group were activities such as pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, paints, petrochemicals and plastics, the manufacture of electro-mechanical batteries, the manufacture of food products and carbonated beverages, a fast-food pizza chain and several medium and small scale industrial units.
Upon assuming the position of Chairman in October 1983, Dr. Mallya initiated the process of defining a corporate structure with performance accountability, inducting professional management and consolidating the unwieldy empire into individual operating divisions.
In 1988, Dr. Mallya became a non-resident Indian to pursue global opportunities and to transform the UB Group into India’s first multinational company. While, in the initial stages, overseas representative offices had been commissioned, the real break came in 1988 when Dr. Mallya, in a leveraged buyout, acquired the global Berger Paints Group with operating companies across four continents.
The exit strategy for this investment was profitably executed when Dr. Mallya successfully directed five Initial Public Offerings on the London, Singapore (Main Boards), Nairobi, Jamaica and Abidjan Stock Exchanges. The paints business was divested for significant value in 1996.
Dr. Mallya also founded a software company in the USA in 1993 which was subsequently listed on the NASDAQ in 1996 and which provides a considerable window of opportunity to the vast US market. He also initiated several ventures for the promotion and globalization of UB brands and, in particular, Kingfisher and McDowell.
In 1990, following the Government of India’s liberalised economic policies, Dr. Mallya decided that the UB Group would only retain interests in businesses that were globally competitive and which did not depend upon fiscal tariff protection. He also decided to focus on areas of core competence and transformed the vastly diversified UB conglomerate into a handful of key operating businesses. On entering the new millennium, the UB Group is considerably more focused and has dramatically increased value for its shareholders through its various operating businesses. Sales of the UB Spirits Division have crossed 90 million cases (9 litres each) during the fiscal year 2008-09. In addition, this Division is one of only three in the world to own 22 millionaire brands and at least five brands rated by Drinks International, UK to be amongst the ten fastest growing brands in the world in their respective categories. The market share of the Spirits Division in India is currently 60% and exports to the Middle East, Africa and Asian countries are growing rapidly.
In 2007, United Spirits Limited, the flagship of The UB Group, acquired a hundred percent of premium scotch distillers Whyte & Mackay and Liquidity Inc, a United States-based maker of specialty vodkas. The Delaware-based Liquidity Inc produces speciality brands like Pinky Vodka and Marakesh.
The UB Group’s Brewing Division has also assumed undisputed market leadership with a national market share in excess of 48%. Through a process of aggressive acquisition and market penetration, The UB Group today controls 60% of the total manufacturing capacity for beer in India. The flagship brand, Kingfisher, is now sold in over 50 countries worldwide having received many accolades for its quality.
Kingfisher, one of the flagship brands of The UB Group, has partnered with NDTV, India’s leading broadcast group in a first-of-its-kind media alliance for the promotion of NDTV Good Times.
The UB Group’s Kingfisher Airlines is today the undisputed market leader in India’s aviation market. In the short span since it was launched, Kingfisher Airlines has redefined the whole experience of flying and has raised the bar by unleashing a host of product and service innovations. It has received numerous awards since its inception.
Kingfisher Airlines offers Full Service and an unparalleled experience to the Indian air traveller. In-flight entertainment has been taken to a new level with the introduction of Live TV to compliment the latest and finest Audio and Video on Demand system that is available.
With the merger of Air Deccan and Kingfisher Airlines, the airline covers all segments of air travel from low fares to premium fares and offers the maximum number of flights offered by any single airline network in India.
Dr. Mallya is the Chairman of public companies both in India as well as in the USA. He has been the Chairman of Aventis Pharma India (previously Hoechst) as well as the Chairman of Bayer Crop Science in India (previously Agrevo) for over 20 years, in addition to his Chairmanship of several other corporations.
Dr. Mallya is the first Indian ever to become the owner of a Formula One Team. The Netherlands-based Mol Family and Dr. Mallya have formed a consortium that is now the joint owner of Force India Formula One, which is also India’s first-ever Formula One Team and represents India’s first, truly global sports foray.
He is a keen sportsman and is an ardent aviator and yachtsman of distinction. He not only participates in various sporting events but also supports various sporting activities worldwide, particularly for the under privileged.
Dr. Mallya has received several professional awards both in India and overseas. He was conferred a Doctorate of Philosophy in Business Administration, by the Southern California University, Irvine. He has also been nominated as a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum. He was conferred France’s highest civilian honour – “ Officier de la legion d” Honneur” for his exceptional career as businessman heading a multinational with diversified interests.
Dr. Mallya has always believed that Corporations have a responsibility to society and mankind. To this end, he has contributed generously to various Charities and Foundations in several countries in addition to establishing The Mallya Hospital, The Mallya-Aditi School and the Vittal Mallya Scientific Research Foundation in Bangalore, India.
|McDowell - Spanning Centuries of change – Now United Spirits Limited|
The vision of the new owners, built upon the legacy of Angus McDowell, resulted in the Company becoming one of the first to trade in Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL). Soon after, McDowell set up its own distilleries.
Beginning with the Cherthalla Distillery in 1959, it went on to establish the Hyderabad Distillery in 1969, the Goa Distillery in 1971 and the Hathidah Distillery at the end of 1973. The Company also acquired a distillery at Nasik in 1994. From being one of India’s first importers of fine wine and spirits, McDowell & Co. has taken quantum leaps through its brands. Five ‘Millionaire’ brands top their categories as industry winners. Two of these have also gone on to achieve international standing by ranking among the top 10 spirits brands in the world in their specific categories. McDowell & Co has, over the years, added lustre to its image – nay exceeded – all expectations of its huge and loyal clientele. Needless to add, it is all set to scale new heights of excellence.McDowell essentially imported consumer items including wines and spirits & cigars and tea to cater to the English population in India. In 1951, McDowell & Co. Ltd. was acquired by Vittal Mallya, founder of The UB Group, and became a subsidiary of United Breweries Limited.
It all began with 5 breweries in South India. The oldest of which, Castle Breweries, dated back to 1857. United Breweries, as these breweries were named in 1915 has come a very long way.
Soon afterwards, the sight of bullock carts carrying huge barrels or 'Hogsheads' containing beer became a household sight. These carts wheeled their way to the customers, including British troops, living in and around Madras, Bangalore and the Nilgiris. Almost immediately, the brew from UB became a favourite, especially with the British troops. So began the history of Beer in India. And the history of Beer Division of United Breweries!
The company was bought by late Mr. Vittal Mallya in 1947, and since then has never looked back. Today each one of the beer outlets in India sells one brand or the other from United Breweries.
March 15th, 1915 - Mr. Thomas Leishman purchased 5 breweries to form United Breweries Ltd. with its registered office at 17 Armenian Street, Chennai
The emblem of the UB Group- the winged horse of Greek mythology-has evolved as a very strong brand identity and has become synonymous with United Breweries. The origin of the logo is unknown but as far back as 1944, the flying horse with a cask of beer on its back and between its wings became part of the UB lore with the UBL's diversification and changed image, the cask is gone.
Then, the highflying Pegasus symbolizing the Group's forays into hitherto unexplored avenues, its wings flapping tirelessly and assuredly, in its journey towards a beckoning future. The colours of gold and the UB blue denoted exclusivity and dynamism.
Reflecting the ever renewing force behind the UB Group, the new UB Group identity, the well know UB Pegasus, has been redesigned to emphatically reflect the spirit of an organization which is becoming younger, Global, Energetic and ever ready to take a leap forward.
The Pegasus has been completely redrawn and relationship with the letterform UB made more unique and emphatic. The letterform UB itself has been redesigned so that the U and B are interlinked making it more distinctive. The Pegasus leaps forward, ever in motion and the new Blue will help it stand out in crowded visual spaces. The new identity will go a long way to add value to each of the Group companies and the UB Group as a whole.