Malayali Beer: The tale of two gutsy entrepreneurs from the Indian Diaspora in Poland

Malayali Beer
Malayali Beer
Image Title
Chandra Mohan (Chandu) Nallur, Co-founder of Malayali Beer

In Poland, two Indian entrepreneurs, Chandra Mohan (Chandu) Nallur and Sargheve Sukumaran, have brewed more than just beer—they've crafted a narrative of resilience, innovation, and cultural fusion. Their venture, Malayali beer, has emerged not only as a symbol of their entrepreneurial spirit but also as a testament to the unyielding power of celebrating cultural identity in a foreign land.

Malayali Beer

Finding Opportunity in Crisis

Chandu Nallur, a native of Palakkad, Kerala, and the first Malayali director of the Chamber of Commerce in Poland, embarked on an unforeseen journey into the beer industry. His partner, Sargheve Sukumaran, a branding expert, joined him in this ambitious endeavor. Their journey began with a predicament—20 tonnes of parboiled rice flakes left unsold due to the economic instability caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Russian invasion of Ukraine in early 2022
Russian invasion of Ukraine in early 2022

“We were trying to find different ways to help an African friend struggling to sell five containers of rice flakes bought before the invasion,” recounts Mohan. “As the conflict escalated, there was nothing we could do to save the rice flakes. Because of the lack of storage facilities, we decided to convert them into pet food, but the plan was scrapped. We read about Komban beer, which was produced outside India. This was our inspiration to find use for the flakes.”, says Mr. Nallur.

This moment of crisis became the catalyst for their innovative solution—transforming the rice flakes into beer. The journey was fraught with challenges, but Chandu and Sukumaran's determination and ingenuity led them to create a distinctive beer that would captivate both local and international markets.

The Rise of Malayali Beer

Their creation, Malayali beer, was not just a business venture but a cultural homage. The beer's unique recipe, combining Indian rice flakes with European hops, created a smooth and distinctive flavor profile that quickly gained popularity. “Gradually, a Polish restaurant approached us to produce our craft beer, which had been gaining popularity. The smoothness of our drink had people talking,” says Chandu.

Naming their beer was a significant step in their branding journey. “We started looking for unique names that could connect us to where we belong. Without much ado, the name Malayali stuck, and we applied for a trademark,” Mohan explains. The name, deeply rooted in their heritage, resonated with their target audience, reflecting their pride in their cultural identity.

Malayali Beer

Within two months of its launch, Malayali beer sold over 50,000 bottles, a testament to its rapid success. Little India Group, a distributor of Indian products in Poland, came forward as a distributor, further expanding their reach. Mohan and Sukumaran are now working on taking their drink to more European countries in the coming months.

Crafting a Legacy

The journey of Malayali beer was not without its hurdles. From navigating brewery partnerships to establishing a robust distribution network, Mohan and Sukumaran faced numerous challenges. Yet, their commitment to their cultural roots and their innovative approach to brewing set them apart in a market saturated with conventional offerings.

European Community enjoying Malayali Beer
Europeans enjoying Malayali Beer

Their branding strategy was equally meticulous. The label, inspired by Kathakali headgear and the Ray-Ban sunglasses worn by Malayalam actor Mohanlal in the hit 1990s film *Spadikam*, became a distinctive mark of their product. “The label was the idea of Sargheve, and he worked closely with a Kochi-based company Cygnifiq who advised on design,” says Mohan.

From Palakkad to Poland: The Personal Journeys

Chandra Mohan Nallur's journey began in Palakkad, Kerala, where he completed his schooling and graduation before moving to Spain for a master’s in international business and politics. It was in Spain that he first encountered the world of beer, working part-time at an Irish pub in Barcelona. “My first part-time job during my college days in Spain in 2007 started at an Irish Pub, Oharas, just off Las Ramblas. A 22-year-old starting at a pub who didn’t have a clue about alcohol,” recalls Mohan. Despite being a teetotaler, he fell in love with the trade, enjoying the art of selling alcohol and engaging with customers.

Chandu Nair with Malayali Beer
Chandu Nallur at a Promo Launch Event for Malayali Beer

His partner, Sargheve Sukumaran, shares a similar passion for beer. A beer enthusiast and branding expert, Sukumaran brought his expertise to the venture, helping to craft a brand that stood out in the competitive market. Together, they combined their skills and experiences to create Malayali beer, a product that transcends geographical boundaries while remaining deeply rooted in their cultural heritage.

The Evolution of Malayali Beer

The inception of Malayali beer was not merely a business endeavor but a testament to the duo's commitment to imbue their product with a rich tapestry of cultural heritage and global appeal. Drawing inspiration from their shared roots in Kerala, India, Mohan and Sukumaran sought to craft a beer that transcended geographical boundaries while remaining deeply rooted in tradition. Thus, the fusion of Indian rice flakes with European hops emerged as the hallmark of Malayali beer—a harmonious blend of diverse influences that resonates with connoisseurs worldwide.

Central to their venture was the meticulous process of refining their product to achieve the perfect balance of flavors—a task that demanded both expertise and perseverance. Guided by Lijo Phillip, a fellow Malayali and veteran in the Polish beer industry, Mohan and Sukumaran navigated the complexities of beer production, striving to carve a niche in a market saturated with conventional offerings. Through meticulous experimentation and unwavering determination, they succeeded in crafting a beer that transcended mere refreshment, embodying the essence of cultural fusion and culinary innovation.

Looking Ahead

As they continue to expand, Mohan and Sukumaran have ambitious goals for Malayali beer. “We would love to be in all the EU markets, at least the restaurant and eventually the retail end. And also the Middle East and the Indian market,” Mohan shares. They are also exploring stronger versions of their beer, such as Malayali Strong and Malayali Super Strong, to cater to diverse consumer preferences. 

They are also about to roll out their beer brand in the USA market this year.

The story of Malayali Beer is not just about beer; it's about resilience, innovation, and the power of cultural identity. As they raise a glass to their success, Mohan and Sukumaran exemplify the spirit of entrepreneurship that transcends borders and unites cultures, one bottle at a time.

In the bustling beer market of Poland, Malayali beer stands out not just for its unique flavor but for the rich narrative it carries—a story of two Malayali men who turned a crisis into an opportunity and brewed their way to success.



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