Zomato aims to foray into liquor to home service amid Lockdown

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Zomato aims to cash in on high demand for booze during the country’s coronavirus lockdown. The company had already diversified into grocery deliveries as movements were restricted during the lockdown.

Alcohol stores, closed nationwide on 25 March, were allowed to re-open this week, generating queues of hundreds of people outside some outlets in some cities and leading to baton charges by police to enforce social distancing protocols.

To deter the large crowds, New Delhi authorities introduced a “Special Corona Fee” of 70 percent on top of retail alcohol prices, while Mumbai shut its liquor stores within two days of reopening them.

There is currently no legal provision for home deliveries of alcohol in India, something that industry body International Spirits and Wines Association of India (ISWAI) is lobbying to change in conjunction with Zomato and others.

“We believe that a technology-enabled home delivery-based solution can promote responsible consumption of alcohol,” Mohit Gupta, Zomato’s CEO for food delivery, wrote in a business proposal to ISWAI.

The legal age for drinking alcohol varies from state to state, ranging between 18 and 25 years.

Zomato would target “areas that are relatively less affected by COVID-19,” Gupta wrote in the unpublished document, submitted to ISWAI in mid-April and seen by Reuters.

Zomato did not respond to a request for comment.

ISWAI’s executive chairman Amrit Kiran Singh said states should allow alcohol deliveries to help boost state revenues hit by the lockdown.

“The challenge is to ensure revenue from alcohol continues to be available,” he told Reuters. “…It is imperative they (states) reduce the load on the retail counter … by encouraging home delivery.”

India’s alcohol drinks market was worth almost $27.2 billion in 2018, according to the most recent figures from London-based research group IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.

Backed by Ant Financial-an affiliate of China’s Alibaba Group Holding-Zomato bought Uber’s Indian food delivery business in January.

Its main local rival is Swiggy, which is backed by China’s Tencent and which Singh said ISWAI had also contacted.

Swiggy also declined to comment.