Food delivery majors Swiggy and Zomato are keen to start home-delivery of liquor in the state, but a major roadblock has put the distribution model in uncertainty.
Bevco, the wholesale liquor distribution arm of the West Bengal government, had introduced e-retail on May 5 through their website by enlisting off-shops, which was reported by TOI. Bevco had asked for an expression of interest (EoI) for home-delivery of alcoholic beverages through its platform on May 28.
Both Swiggy and Zomato told TOI that they are in “advanced stages of discussion” with Bevco for the home-delivery of liquor across the state.
A Swiggy spokesperson said, “We are in advanced stages of discussion with multiple state governments, including the government of West Bengal, to provide support with online processing and home-delivery of alcohol. We are currently offering home-delivery of alcohol in Jharkhand and Odisha.”
Swiggy has also incorporated an AI-based face-recognition system to automate the age-verification and user authentication process for all alcohol deliveries. This additional layer of security ensures that the delivery complies with all laws.
Replying to an e-mail, a Zomato spokesperson wrote: “We look forward to partnering with the liquor retail industry to enable safe and compliant delivery of alcoholic beverages in West Bengal.” Like Swiggy, Zomato has already started its alcohol delivery services in Jharkhand and Odisha.
However, a leading liquor retailer in the city told TOI that it got calls from both Swiggy and Zomato last week, but had not shown interest as the food delivery majors were asking for three-seven days’ credit for payment.
“It is not possible for us to give products on credit in a trade where the margin is very thin. We mostly deal in cash,” the retailer added. The retailer margin in the liquor trade is between 4.5% and 5%.
Sources said Swiggy and Zomato would have to tie up with retailers via the Bevco platform if they want to deliver liquor due to excise rules. “The food majors may not get permission to take orders on their platforms. Besides, if they (food delivery majors) want to make money from this, they will have to charge extra. It may work in case of premium brands, but it will be difficult for the lower- and mid-range brands,” said another retailer.
In the last financial year, the state had raked in Rs 11,000 crore from liquor. West Bengal is a market of 1.4 crore cases of hard IMFL that includes whisky, rum, vodka, etc and 80 lakh cases of beer annually.
Source: Times of India