Aug 16: What seemed an impossibility just a few months ago, is getting a grudging acceptance from States, with Maharashtra allowing sale of liquor through home delivery, followed by West Bengal and Orissa permitting also the Walmart’s e-commerce website FlipKart partnering with Diageo subsidiary HipBar for home delivery of wines and liquor, writes Subhash Arora who believes if successful, we may soon see online sales and delivery of wine and liquor across India post-Covid, or at least within a State just like in Maharashtra
According to a Report in Reuters, the governments of West Bengal and Odisha have approved a plan for Flipkart customers to purchase wine and liquor through HipBar, an Indian alcohol home delivery app, owned by London-based Diageo, the global giant in alcoholic beverages, which believes itself to be the world’s largest producer of spirits and a major producer of beer and wine. Flipkart, Walmart’s e-commerce arm in India is partnering with the company for home delivery of wine and liquor.
Customers will be able to place orders for the alcoholic beverage of their choice to Flipkart. HipBar will then deliver after collecting products from retail outlets, according to Reuter. The deal between the two retail giants comes when India’s alcohol market has been valued at $27 billion and scope for home delivery is huge.
In June, Reuters had already reported that Amazon received approval to deliver alcohol in West Bengal, thus allowing its entree into this segment of alcohol, that might be considered as the last mile in the supply chain. Flipkart now wants to make sure that whatever consumers want, they get it. The margins on liquor delivery may be low, but for Flipkart it is more about keeping the consumers in its active database so they don’t go anywhere else.
As reported by delWine also, Amazon was not the only online company to be approved for liquor sales. Backed by Chinese-based technology platform Alibaba, Big Basket touted as the largest online food and grocery store, was already given the go ahead earlier.
Last month, Swiggy and Zomato, India’s two major food delivery companies also added liquor to their product offering after they got approval from West Bengal. The companies hope to cash in on the high demand for liquor from people staying at home due to the current pandemic.
National Restaurant Association of India had also reportedly indicated that it was developing a platform for home delivery of alcoholic beverages for its members but no announcements apparently have been made on their progress. With the 1% tax levied on e-commerce platforms, the Central government also hopes to collect more taxes from these companies.
It is very likely that soon home delivery would become the norm in the industry and there is every likelihood that online selling would soon be a reality though many issues would still need to be worked out, including the excise duty and Sales Tax sharing. The issue of not selling to minors is relatively a non- issue. Online sales within the State as initial step, as allowed in Mumbai would be a welcome step in the right direction in bringing the producers and importers in touch with the customers more easily and transparently.
Amazon also said on Friday that it would also launch an online pharmacy in India to serve Bengaluru area. Reliance is also reportedly negotiating with Netmeds online pharmacy to enter this business. Indian shoppers are increasingly clicking online to buy everything from groceries to medicines to electronics during the pandemic.
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