Meet Jerome Le Louer, the man bringing the craft beer experience to southeast Asia via his website Wishbeer, Thailand’s largest online liquor store.
Titled Thailand’s Most Promising Startup at the Echelon Awards in 2014, Wishbeer has been on an upward journey since its inception in 2012. Created thanks to the simple desire of a bunch of beer enthusiasts who wanted craft ales delivered to their doorstop, it’s now a buzzing online retail business that also runs four beer bars in Bangkok. Founder Jerome Le Louer) tells us how he did it.
Crafted to maximise on the spending power of a burgeoning Thai middle class and also fill an increasing demand for premium craft beers, not just in Thailand, but all over the world, Wishbeer was launched to fill a definite need. “People are tired of the mass-produced, tasteless beers that the major industrial breweries offer,” Jerome explains. Having won investment from 500 Tuk Tuk, the Thailand-focused micro fund of the American seed stage investment company 500 Startups, and millions more from Facebook ads, Wishbeer was well on its way to redefining how Bangkok drinks.
Set apart from other competitors in the craft ale sphere thanks to the combination of their online with their offline presence, Wishbeer offers a new angle by connecting consumers with hard-to-find micro-breweries that, before, lurked in the shadows. “There are many bars that have opened in the past year or two that only focus on craft beers. It’s very trendy in terms of design, but if you look at the chains that brew beers and ciders, none of them have any online presence,” explains Jerome.
Carefully tailoring their customer experience – both on the website and via their bars – Jerome has learnt what works, where, and this translates well into his buying. Thonglor is much more of a premium location with beers being very highly rated. Rachada, on the other hand, caters to more of a mass craft beer consumer base, featuring brands such as Hoegaarden and Budweiser.
From their first raw, no-fuss warehouse-style bar in Prakanong, they have expanded to three other locations in Thonglor, Rachada and Charoennakorn. Only a month ago, they opened their latest store in Charanakorn and recently they have diversified into wines and spirits as well, tapping into related markets.
Looking forward, Jerome has his sights set on Vietnam: “The craft beer culture is very much there. It’s the biggest drinking country for beer.” That country, too, will be subject to Wishbeer’s dual approach. “We consider ourselves an omnichannel business. We started online and we firmly believe the offline part should not be forgotten, so we integrate the two to provide a seamless experience for our customers.”