MBC JUDGED TOP 25 PERFORMING PUBLIC COMPANIES

KANWAL SALEEM
Mar 16 - 22, 2009

Murree Brewery Company Limited, Rawalpindi is one of the oldest public limited companies of the sub-continent.

Isphanyar M. Bhandara is currently Chief Executive of the company.

Born on November 18, 1972 at Karachi, Isphanyar M. Bhandara did Master of Business Administration (MBA) and then joined the family business, Murree Brewery Co. Ltd., Rawalpindi one of the oldest public limited companies of the sub-continent- in 2000.

Before induction as Chief Executive of the Murree Brewery Group of Companies, Isphanyar M. Bhandara also served as Chief Executive of the Murree Brewery Group of Companies. He is highly talented and dynamic person who intends to take the business to new heights.

Giving history of the Murree Brewery Company, Isphanyar M. Bhandara said consequent to the British annexation of the Punjab in 1849 from Sikh rule, and more so after 1857 when the British Crown formally extended its sovereignty over India, a structured administration commenced in the Punjab.

To meet the beer requirements of British personnel (mainly army), the Murree Brewery was established in 1860 and incorporated a year later at Ghora Gali, located in the Pir Punjal range of the Western Himalayas at an elevation of 6000' above sea level, near the resort town of Murree.

The Murree Brewery was, therefore, among the first modern beer breweries established in Asia, he said.

In an interview with Pakistan and Gulf Economist, Isphanyar M. Bhandara said that Murree Beer proved to be very popular among the British troopers who were largely barracked in the 'Galis' of these hills. The virtues of beer brewed from barley malt and hops as a light alcoholic beverage were not lost on the local population who rapidly became avid consumers, he added. To meet the rising demand for Murree Beer and encouraged by good financial results, the company established breweries at Quetta in 1886 and in Rawalpindi in 1889 a distillery was added to the Rawalpindi brewery around 1895 to distill alcohol from Molasses and Gur and pure malt whiskies on Pot Stills.

By the turn of the 20th century, the name "Murree" was famous for its beer in keg and bottle in the bars, beer halls and army messes of British India. He said Murree Beer was first awarded a medal for product excellence at the Philadelphia Exhibition in 1876, followed by numerous awards over the past 140 years. In 1935, he said a massive earthquake totally demolished the Quetta brewery as well as a substantial part of Quetta town, killing thousands of persons, including a number of our employees.

At Ghora Gali, the scarcity of water became an emerging problem. By the 1920s, brewing was mostly transferred to the Rawalpindi brewery but maltings continued at Ghora Gali till the 1940s, when this property was sold. This historic brewery built in Gothic style architecture was burnt during the partition riots of 1947-48.

Park Lodge a handsome residential property was purchased by the company from Mrs. H. Whymper in 1888. The family of Edward Whymper who was the first to climb the Matterhorn in 1865 (then the highest mountain ever climbed) was closely connected with the company. It was the principal residence and head office of the company till 1959, when it was taken over by the Government of Pakistan. It remained the seat of the Head of State or the Prime Minister of Pakistan till 1990.

Isphanyar M. Bhandara said the Rawalpandi brewery is blessed with deep aquifers of good water. A railway siding was extended to the premises in the 19th century, which is now derelict. Currently, only non-Muslims and foreigners are permitted to consume alcohol, he said, adding over the pastfour decades white oak casks and vats were procured from North America, Australia and Spain. He said that another wave of modernization was undertaken in the 1990s. New beer canning and modern bottle filling facilities from Holstein and Kappert (Germany) were installed. Two units of alcohol rectification columns for producing extra neutral grade of potable alcohol from Molasses were procured from France and Italy, respectively, to give our Vodkas and Gins production a qualitative edge, he added. Also in this period, the beer fermentation capacities were renewed in highest grade Stainless Steel.

It is pertinent to point out that our basic beer fermentation system installed in the 1930s was then at the cutting edge of this technology. Known at the time as the Nathan system, it incorporates fermentation and the lagering of beer in a single double-jacketed vessel. The system is now in extensive use worldwide.

Talking about Tops Food and Beverages, a division of the company, he said it was established in 1969. It processes fruits and markets fruit juices and allied food products.

Two manufacturing units are located in Rawalpindi and Hattar (NWFP) respectively. A Tetra Pak packaging facility was added in 2001. The Hattar plant was installed in 1992.

Isphanyar M. Bhandara said the Murree Glass, the glass container division of the Company, established in 1974, manufactures glass containers of all types for the company and other food and beverage consumers. It is also located in Hattar (NWFP).

The plant is based on a Recuperative Melter and two Emhart I.S. container manufacturing machines and has the latest quality control equipment for online inspection of containers, he added.

Isphanyar M. Bhandara said the Murree Brewery's shares were traded on the Calcutta Stock Exchange as early as 1902, and is now the oldest continuing industrial enterprise of Pakistan. In 1997-98 and 1998-99, we were judged among the top 25 performing public companies by the Karachi Stock Exchange.