Nov 15, 2023

How Konstantin Bellut and Nikhil Ninne Revolutionize Brewing With Smart Solutions

Susanne Stock-Jakobsen
Content Specialist at Next Big Thing AG
Brewing Industry Faces Challenges

In the shadow of rising raw material and energy prices, the brewing industry faces an inexorable change. With a cost increase of 62% within the last two years.  Breweries are challenged to produce a variety of beer types cost-effectively. Quality and economy have become key factors in the battle for market shares. Consequently, this demanding environment needs simple, quick to deploy solutions for modernizing brewing processes, yet they are often hard to find.

Two visionaries, Dr. Konstantin Bellut and Nikhil Ninne, step up to fill this gap. With their mission to simplify and optimize production processes in the brewing industry through the use of smart IIoT solutions.

Their value proposition is clear: enable breweries to produce up to an additional 500,000* liters of beer annually, a massive reduction in time spent on sampling, an increase in CO2 recovery, and significant savings in energy consumption – all in line with the sustainable development goals.

*for large/mid sized breweries

NBT accompanies Konstantin and Nikhil on their journey. Get to know our visionaries better and explore how their innovative solutions could redefine the way we brew beer!

Meet our Visionaries: About Konstantin and Nikhil

Konstantin has a PhD in brewing. For the past 3 1/2 years, he has been working in the global innovation center of the largest brewing company in the world on topics of tech innovation and sustainability. He is very passionate about technology and the brewing industry. “With smart sensors and IoT, we can unlock a lot of value in the brewing industry on processes where breweries currently have little to no insight in”, he says.

Nikhil has extensive experience in building software products. He has had the pleasure of leading and building high performing teams to enable real time data processing for credit risk assessments in the fintech sector. “I love technology and the pace at which it can impact lives”, he says. His wish is to leverage his skills and combine data science  and smart sensors in order to make the F&B industry more efficient.

 Perfect Co-Founding Team: Konstantin and Nikhil's Complementary Roles and Shared Passion

Konstantin and Nihkil met through the NBT visionaries program. Both know that co-founder relationships can be complex. So before they decided to work together, they discussed their motivations to do the startup, what is at stake for each of them and what are the expectations at the end of it. They also talked in detail about what they expect from a co-founder in terms of commitment.

The roles they envisioned for themselves were quickly determined: Konstantin's process expertise in the brewing industry, combined with Nikhil's background in strategy and software, make them a perfect co-founding team. Konstantin takes the lead in product innovation, driving sensor research and conducting user interviews, while Nikhil focuses on strategy, planning, and software product development.

It soon became clear that both Konstantin and Nikhil were not only a good fit professionally, they also share a passion for their joint project.  It combines their love for the product with the opportunity to make the production processes more sustainable.

After all, they have found the perfect combination: “We see each other as both friends and professionals simultaneously. This dual perspective allows us to collaborate on demanding subjects while maintaining a lighthearted approach.”

Taking the Leap: Konstantin and Nikhil's Joint Venture into Entrepreneurship

Nikhil had already embarked on an entrepreneurial journey in the past which was intense but rewarding. “I vividly recall how exhilarating it was. However, as that venture concluded I found myself exhausted.” He then was looking to expand his horizon and take up a different kind of challenge. This led him from India to Europe, broadening his experience in multinational fintech companies. “Working alongside people from diverse nationalities and leading talented teams was an humbling and enriching experience.”

Nevertheless, his entrepreneurial spirit continued to nag at him. He felt it was time to look for a fresh challenge that reminded him of my entrepreneurial days. The pivotal point came during a diving trip to Maldives. “ I saw first hand the impact of global warming. That left a lasting impact on the urgency of the need to react to climate change!”  And as one thing led to another, Nikhil found himself returning to entrepreneurship. He is convinced: “Our smart brewing solution represents the perfect opportunity. The scale of impact in the beverage industry, convinces me that we're working on a problem that is worth solving and the time to do it is right now.”

Konstantin remembers his first inspiring encounter with the start-up world. “During my time at university, I was sitting in a lecture where a startup introduced their product - a homebrew kit - and their startup journey and I literally got goosebumps. There and then, my dream to create something on my own was born. I realized that one does not need to study business, or have a business background to start a successful venture!”

A following entrepreneurial scholarship by the UnternehmerTUM not only provided valuable entrepreneurial knowledge but also offered insights into his own capabilities while connecting him with a supportive community of like-minded individuals. “However, my other passion - brewing - then led me to dive deeper into the topic and I did my PhD on brewing fermentation abroad. During my industry role after that, I again developed myself a lot but the itching under my skin got bigger and bigger to start something on my own. Eventually, I decided to take the leap - and here we are now.”

Why a smart brewing solution?

Given Konstantin’s background, it was always clear to him that he would want to start something in the brewing industry. Nikhil, on the other hand, had been instantly impressed by the sheer scale of the beer industry, estimated at $550 billion globally.

Beverage Industry

Therefore, the horizon does not end at breweries right from the start. Instead, Konstantin and Nikhil think ahead. The long-term goal is to revolutionize the brewing industry and then expand the solution to other sectors within the beverage industry.

The beverage industry faces a critical challenge in adopting advanced technology. Existing solutions often demand in-house tech teams and significant effort in retrofitting, limiting the accessibility of these technologies to a select few. The absence of user-friendly, plug-and-play IIoT solutions inhibits the industry from fully leveraging the benefits of technological advancements.

Their vision is to accelerate technology adoption in the beverage industry by creating plug and play IIoT solutions which deliver clear business value. “We envision our solution will reshape the brewing industry by making advanced technology accessible to breweries of all sizes . By combining industry knowledge, data science, and smart sensors into a plug-and-play solution we aim to free production companies from the need for full stack in- house tech teams and allow them to focus on their craft.”

Both Konstantin and Nikhil are convinced: “Our team is perfectly positioned with our skill set to truly make a lasting impact.“

Brewing Industry Expertise and Data Science Combined: Co-Founders' Solution Offers Cost-Effective Production Transformation

The solution consists of non-invasive sensors that can be easily retrofitted. The data is visualized in a dashboard. It is accessible via phone or any computer with an added option to integrate it into existing systems via APIs.

“We plan to use relatively simple and cost-effective smart sensors to derive insights leveraging data science, thus shifting the complexity to software and simplifying the hardware for our customers”, explains Nikhil.

This could have different implications for various business segments. For some, it may mean they have the financial means to tap into previously untapped potential. For others, it may mean they can now digitize their entire production process while keeping costs low. With this technology, breweries can access valuable insights into fermentation and other processes, allowing them to make real-time adjustments to process control parameters.

Which means fermentation tanks can be emptied faster, this translates into more beer, less effort and highest degree of consistency in quality. “We estimate that there can be a ~90% reduction of physical work in terms of sampling effort! Our value will lie in how we process the data in real time.”

Piloting the Future: 50% of Breweries Interested in Innovative Solution

In order to identify market demand at an early stage, Konstantin has been talking to breweries companies, specifically focusing on larger breweries in Germany with production volumes exceeding 100,000 hL/year. The initial reaction has been very positive, with 50% of the breweries interested in a pilot.

Blog Image

Given the recent challenges that the world has faced, it has become clear that digitization of processes is the need of the hour as it helps the industry have a higher degree of control.l 

Driving Sustainability in the Brewing Industry

NBT focuses on creating impactful tech startups for a liveable future. So what is the impact of the innovative brewing solution? “Our technology will help breweries to make their process more resource-efficient. It will lower the total energy that is required to produce beer by increasing the production throughput and efficiency. For breweries with CO2 recovery, it can unlock additional savings”, Nikhil says. This is also in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 9 and 12.

Entrepreneurship with a Mission: Nikhil and Konstantin's Vision for a Better Future

Nikhil is driven by the desire to create a lasting positive impact. “Our venture allows me to combine my passion for entrepreneurship with the potential to make the world a better place.. “

“I think what we owe the future is to do our best to make the world a better place for everybody”, adds Konstantin. “If by creating this venture, I can give my small contribution to that, that is all the motivation that I need.”

Konstantin and Nikhil’s Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
  • User interviews are crucial – and conducting them properly is essential. Reflect and continuously refine your interview approach in order to gain valuable insights which can be the most important determining factor for the direction that you choose for your venture. Nikhil would highly recommend reading The mom’s test for developing a framework for conducting interviews..
  • Find a venture that aligns with your passion and skills, and collaborate with the people you get along with. Everything is possible if you can collaborate effectively and reflect on the feedback with a critical view.
Blog Image

Thanks for your valuable Input, Konstantin and Nikhil - and cheers to more sustainable beers in the future!

Konstantin and Nikhil are excited to be on this journey and are really driven to make an impact. What about you? Apply for our Impact Challenge or Impact Challenge or or Visionaries program and unleash your own entrepreneurial expertise!