HYDERABAD: It’s not exactly the return of the prodigal, because Karan Billimoria has been coming home to Hyderabad every year from London, the city that he has made his own for the past two decades. But this trip was special for reasons more than one.
He wanted his two sons to have their Navjot (the Parsi rites of initiation) in the same place where he had it and “run round the dharamasala in the same way I did.”
Then this is the first time that the accountant who became a billionaire by selling beer, came home after he became a Lord (and by implication a member of the British House of Lords) last year.
“I am the first Parsi to become a member of House of Lords,” the man who studied in Hyderabad Public School (HPS) tells you proudly. “The other three members starting with Dadabhai Naoroji were at the House of Commons,” he says adding that his great grandfather D D Italia was a Rajya Sabha member in the fifties.
Though Lord Billimoria’s father was an army general, the spirit business runs in his vein. “Mr Italia also produced liquor in Warangal,” chuckles Billimoria whose family came to Hyderabad four generations ago.
For those who came in late, Karan went to London to study accountancy after completing his B Com from Hyderabad, but began brewing beer in 1989.
The beer with the brand name of Cobra rode piggyback on the increasing interest in Indian curries in England that began around that time and all those who went to eat out Indian food thought that Billimoria’s beer was the perfect accompaniment to the spicy eatables.
Karan’s business empire is now worth 150 million pounds (Rs 1,290 crore) and 70 per cent of the equity is held by him. By the way, Billimoria did qualify as a chartered accountant.
Other than participating furiously in the debates at the House of Lords, Billimoria is also planning to expand his business and set up a brewery in AP.
He is brewing his Cobra beer in North India on leased capacity, but AP being the largest beer market in the country, the Hyderabadi cannot resist planning to set up shop in the state. Billimoria is also busy as the chairman of the Indo- British partnership intitiative that seeks to expand to business between the two countries.
Karan’s original formula came from a Mysore Breweries with whom he had a partnership. Thirteen years ago the partner took the youngman to Tirupati for a darshan of the Lord and lady luck has never stopped smiling at him thereafter.
On Friday, Billimoria now 44, went back to have another darshan, this time with his mother. Where will the blessings of the Lord take him this time?
Original article published here