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Jazz Shapers

Lord Bilimoria

Lord Bilimoria


While I was a student I came up with the idea for Cobra beer, came from a love of beer but a complete dislike for fizzy, gassy, harsh, bland, bloating lagers which I really couldn’t stand.

So I came up with this idea, why don’t I produce a beer which I will make in India and a beer that has the refreshment of a lager and the smoothness of an ale and would go well with all food and in particular with curry and Indian food.

That was my idea for Cobra beer and we set up, I started working in a friend’s house in Fulham on the kitchen table literally no exaggeration.

It was the summer of 1990 that we actually first brought in the first container of Cobra beer, brewed in Bangalore and shipped across here to the UK. You have to cross what I call the credibility gap which is nobody knows you, nobody knows your brand, you have zero credibility. Crossing that credibility gap why do people finance you, supply you and buy from you, supply you when you are in that position of zero credibility. They do that if you have faith, passion, confidence and belief in yourself and in your idea and your product and your brand which gives them the faith and confidence to give you a chance.

I have been able to build a brand and build a business to cope with all the ups and downs and having a great team has made all the difference. The word you come across more than anything when you start of business is a very short word, it’s no. Do you want my product – no. Will you finance me – no and you’ve got to convince people to say yes and so it is tough from the very beginning but the worst is when you nearly lose your business. I have nearly lost my business three times. What got us through it I think every single time more than anything else was that one word – integrity.

This country has given me the opportunity over the last three decades from coming here as a nineteen year old student and at that time Britain was a sick man of Europe, at that time this country had a glass ceiling for somebody who was a foreigner where you wouldn’t get to the top because you were a foreigner. At that time entrepreneurship had images of Del Boy and second hand car salesmen and was looked down upon and how this country has now changed to a country with opportunity for all regardless of race, religion or background, I believe this is a country of aspiration, this is a country of opportunity for everybody and this is a country now where entrepreneurship is celebrated. So wow.

Lord Bilimoria featured on Jazz Shapers, a radio programme broadcast on Jazz FM, presented by Mishcon de Reya’s Director of Business Development, Elliot Moss.

On Jazz Shapers, entrepreneurs like Lord Bilimoria, who have defined and shaped business, are interviewed by Elliot. Alongside music from the risk takers and leaders of jazz, soul, funk and blues, they share the story of their careers and offer advice to anybody thinking of setting up a business.

You can listen to Jazz Shapers live every Saturday at 9am here.

To view previous films, click here.

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