Zomato’s Proposal to Home-Deliver Alcohol is the Lockdown Business Idea We’ve All Been Waiting For


Zomato’s Proposal to Home-Deliver Alcohol is the Lockdown Business Idea We’ve All Been Waiting For

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

After more than 45 days of being on the wagon during quarantine, the reopening of liquor shops came as a relief to many. Until, chaos ensued. Customers stood in tightly packed queues outside the stores selling alcohol in large numbers, blatantly violating social distancing measures. In fact at some outlets in major cities, like Delhi and Mumbai, the crowd turned unruly, leading to baton charges by the cops in an effort to control the crowd.

Now, all our alcohol woes amid the lockdown might finally be put to rest, with no compromise on safety practises.

Homegrown food delivery company Zomato is now aiming to launch an alcohol home delivery system, a smart move to cash in on the skyrocketing liquor demand. With restrictions on movement and temporary shutting down of most restaurants, the app had already branched out into grocery deliveries as revenue from food delivery dipped due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

At the moment, there are no legal provisions in the country that allow the home delivery of alcoholic beverages. However, liquor trade bodies like Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC), International Spirits and Wines Association of India (ISWAI) and All India Brewers’ Association (AIBA) have made efforts to reach out to state governments, seeking permission for the allowance of the same.

Zomato’s CEO Mohit Gupta has approached ISWAI, proposing its business idea. “We believe that a technology-enabled home delivery based solution can promote responsible consumption of alcohol,” Gupta wrote in the business proposal, as per a Reuters report. The unpublished document, submitted to ISWAI in mid-April, also states that Zomato would target “areas that are relatively less affected by COVID-19,” quoted Reuters.

Amrit Kiran Singh, ISWAI’s executive chairman, is also of the opinion that state governments should allow alcohol deliveries to help boost State revenues which have taken a severe hit by the lockdown. He told Reuters, “The challenge is to ensure revenue from alcohol continues to be available. It is imperative they (states) reduce the load on the retail counter… by encouraging home delivery.”

Singh might not be wrong with this suggestion. In 2018, according to a report by London-based research group IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, India’s alcohol drinks market boasted a value of $27.2 Bn.

Netizens have responded positively to this news. Some have strongly backed Zomato’s venture seeing how it benefits people without jeopardising social distancing norms.

A meme to best summarise the situation.

While earlier today, a three-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and BR Gavai refused to pass any order pertaining to liquor delivery facilities, states have been advised to “consider home delivery or indirect sale of liquor to maintain social distancing,” reported NDTV.

Only recently the Chhattisgarh government launched an online platform and mobile application that caters specifically to alcohol home delivery. On Wednesday, May 6, the West Bengal government made the state-run West Bengal State Beverages Corporation (WBSBCL) website accessible to individuals to directly place liquor orders from. Following the chaos at alcohol shops, the Delhi government has initiated an e-token system. This facility is designed for social distancing, while also ensuring the availability of alcohol to customers. The e-token can be availed from www.qtoken.com, but remains inactive at the moment.

Could online alcohol delivery services be a part of our “new normal”? The probability seems highly likely.