Friday, 25 July, 2014

 
Published August 31, 2013
NO HOLDS BARRED
EPL calls for a Carlsberg
BT 20130831 JOHN 735769

- PHOTO: CARLSBERG SINGAPORE

BT 20130831 JOHN 735769

Every Chelsea supporter was delighted when it was announced that Mourinho would be back as the coach. Because of him, I have a relatively high level of expectation for this season.
Mr Botia, managing director of Carlsberg Singapore

HE won't go as far as to say it out loud, but Chelsea fan John Botia is quietly confident that the club he has supported all his life - with new boss Jose Mourinho in charge - can do enough to win the English Premier League (EPL) championship for the first time in four seasons come next May.

The 46-year-old Londoner, born a stone's throw from Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium in the British capital, said: "Every Chelsea supporter was delighted when it was announced that Mourinho would be back as the coach. Because of him, I have a relatively high level of expectation for this season."

He is the new managing director of Carlsberg Singapore, a position he took up in June after his predecessor Bart Lim was posted to the Danish beer giant's global headquarters in Copenhagen.

The father of three finds himself based in Asia for the first time in his career, having previously worked at Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma, the leading Mexican beverages group, and Scottish & Newcastle, the UK's top brewer.

Earlier this month, Carlsberg broke new ground in the world of football by signing a three-year global deal to be the official beer of the EPL. Here in Singapore, Carlsberg is also the official beer for the upcoming IG Masters Football 6's Singapore Cup, which will take place on Oct 18-19 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

It is an exciting time to be in the Lion City, Mr Botia told BT Weekend in a recent interview. We find out more about his big move to Singapore, how he keeps fit in his line of work, and the other sports he follows, besides football.

BT: How have things been here ever since you moved over in June this year?

John Botia (JB): My job here is to build on the good work that's been done so far and to take the Carlsberg business forward. We regard ourselves as a "challenger" in this market because we're the No 2 player in Singapore. We have a good portfolio of brands such as Skol, Kronenbourg and Somersby, and that's quite an exciting portfolio to offer consumers. Carlsberg, of course, remains by far our most important brand.

We like to give people a choice when they go out so that they don't feel like they have to have what everyone else is drinking. Choices are, ultimately, what consumers value. I want to make our brands even stronger, more dynamic, so that people will enjoy them for years to come.

BT: What's your take on Singapore's beer market and the consumers here?

JB: Singapore is unique in the sense that it has some features that you don't find in any other market, certainly not in Europe or Latin America. You've got the coffeeshops and hawker centres here, which are a very important source of growth for us in Singapore. Then you've got familiar features such as the pubs, clubs and supermarkets and grocery stores, which you will find in many other parts of the world. We have many plans lined up to grow our brand in all these areas.

BT: Are you surprised that football fans here are so crazy about the EPL that they would wake up at 3am or 4am to watch a game and even go out to the pub to drink at that time?

JB: (Laughs) Yes, I guess it's a little bit surprising, but only in the sense that you don't always appreciate the passion that exists outside the UK for what we still consider to be very much an English sporting tournament.

This is a tribute to how the EPL has become a global brand over the last 20 years. You used to have teams that have historically had a strong following, like Manchester United or Liverpool. Today, so many fans support clubs like Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle.

One thing that's helped fuel this is the fact that the league has so many players from all over the world, including Asia, Africa and Latin America. And unlike other leagues, in England, there are four to six teams that could realistically win the title.

Every game is competitive and that's what makes it so popular.

BT: You must do a fair bit of travel and entertaining as part of your job. How do you stay fit?

JB: I used to play a lot of football and rugby last time. As you get older, you've got to invest a bit more to keep fit. When you're in your 20s, you can eat and drink what you want and your body sort of takes care of itself. But in your 30s and 40s, that doesn't happen so much. There are always temptations to eat and drink a lot. As always in life, it's about a balance. I go to the gym and also play a little bit of five-a-side football when I can.

BT: I know you watch all Chelsea's matches, but what other sports do you enjoy?

JB: I love cricket, rugby, athletics, golf and tennis. I watched Andy Murray win Wimbledon in July. I can't remember another British athlete who's had so much pressure on his shoulders. It was a moment of sheer joy, not just for him but for the whole nation, to finally become the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years. I remember it was 1am here and I was watching it at home. I was ecstatic, to say the least!