By Dhrumil Dhakan
Beverage and brewery industry is known for its craft of beer making but not so much for their use of technology in offering a great customer experience. But Covid pandemic turned things upside down when lockdowns across the nation caused a major hit to the beverage industry.
As the pandemic hit, AB-InBev was left with no choice but to take refuse in technology. Seeing technology as a competitive advantage, AB InBev invested heavily in technology by creating products & AI/ML solutions, which help the company in creating more touchpoints for their customers and also improve their bottom line.
“So, AI and ML helps us optimize our operations, it helps us optimize our collections, Order To Cash process and also drive better ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment)product offering,” said Pritam Dutta, Global Director – Fintech Ventures & Innovation, Anheuser-Busch InBev.
It’s unheard of a beverage company to get into the fintech space. But AB InBev didn’t want to leave any stone unturned to grow its market. “Fintech initiatives, which we identified as a key customer need, have become an offering, with the focus on small and medium businesses, so through that marketplace, we provide multiple products, our products, and some ancillary products. It’s direct to customer platform and I can also provide financial services through that,” Dutta explained.
Elaborating on the financial tech in use at the company Dutta remarked, “We have invested in creating platforms through which we can do better business with the customers, we have invested in a fintech venture through which we can create a 360-degree financial relationship with the customers and we have also co-build some data and analytics products, for which we are collaborating with some other companies.”
The organization has also built a wallet to help its customers address cash-related challenges like making payments. According to Dutta, these products and fintech investments have allowed AB InBev to create a financial ecosystem, making business easier for small and medium businesses.
While they have managed to set up this financial ecosystem, it is important to understand what prompted them to do so. “Most of our customers are small and medium businesses and most of them had working capital issues because bars & pubs were closed, there was a lot of challenge in terms of revenue, so through the setup that we had here in India, we were able to identify the challenges with the customers not being able to pay in time, with having large overdue, etc. and we were able to manage it by putting a combination of process overhaul and technology intervention,” Dutta said.
This helped them understand that customers need access to credit, for which they could possibly approach the banks or other financial institutions but the rates and the process might be cumbersome, and this prompted them to fill this gap and provide the financial services that the businesses need.
Beer Garage Accelerator Program
Talking about their technology and innovation arm, Dutta added, “We have Beer Garage, which is our external innovation arm which researches and brings new technology to ABI and we also have also created platforms like Innovation Garage through which we collaborate with some other companies in building these technologies together.”
Beer Garage Accelerator programme, a global Programme run from India, had over 1500+ applications last year and helped identify Key partners in areas like FinTech, Logistics & Digital Transformation.
From 1500 startups, AB InBev identified 11 startups across AI, neural science, and social commerce through their Beer Garage Accelerator program and then build business models with the startups and are now in the process of scaling them up across the globe generating significant business value.
Further explaining the concept, Dutta said, “It’s a program through which startups apply, we give them some challenges, and the ones that get selected, get supported by us and our partners.” It’s an enriching journey with access to Top class Mentors & Venture capital Funds.
Aerchain, part of the 2020 cohort of the Beer Garage Accelerator & as Procurement Platform was recently raised $3 million at a valuation of $30 m post graduating from the Accelerator programme.
He continued, “We felt that not everything can be done by the company, it’s always good to work with partners who have specialized skills who can help drive the Value Generation agenda forward.”
Sales & marketing
Dutta stated that technology also plays an important role in their sales and marketing department. For the same, he added, “We have invested extensively in acquiring first-party data, through which we are able to build stronger relationships with the customers.” Through the Beer garage Accelerator program, Dutta stated that ABI piloted World’s first visual content and targeted smart Ads across OTT and Youtube.
Again as part of the Accelerator programme, ABI recently tested a technology that helps them identify how a consumer will react when they see their advertisement, on how their brain waves will function, depending on the analysis of which, they are able to understand how effective the particular advert is and create more effective advertisements.
As part of our Beer Garage Incubator programme, we faced a problem with how our brands are doing on Retail shelves. They have invested and created a proprietary technology through which they are able to capture the movements of our brands, how are they playing, and get real-time analysis of how their brands are doing.
The Beer Garage team also launched a virtual horse racing in Metaverse and is one of the early adopters of NFT & Blockchain Technology. Pritam also mentioned that the company is launching the 2022 edition of Beer Garage Accelerator on the 20th of April.