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HomeBusinessAB InBev to scale home delivery of liquor in Maharashtra

AB InBev to scale home delivery of liquor in Maharashtra


Brewer AB InBev is planning to scale its online delivery in the state of Maharashtra more than one and a half years after it launched Beerbox, a tech platform that enables stores to deliver liquor within a 3–4-kilometre radius. ABInBev is known for Budweiser and Stella Artois beers. 

The brewer could expand the model to other markets, wherever states permit home delivery of alcohol, setting the stage for large corporates to participate in the liquor delivery ecosystem in the country and ease access for consumption of alcoholic beverages. 

Beerbox is a web-based platform which anyone in Maharashtra can access through their mobile phones as well. An app will be rolled out next month. Through Beerbox, ABInbev enables certain listed stores to facilitate the deliveries. It does not hold or own any inventory. 

In 2018, AB InBev started partnering with local entrepreneurs to open “aBeer” branded beer and wine stores in the state of Maharashtra. Though the beer maker does not own the stores, it provides them with a marketing and branding playbook, inventory management systems, refrigerators and tech know-how. These stores sport a similar branding and stock prominent and local brands of wine and beer including those sold by AB InBev and its competitors.  

In 2020, after pandemic-led lockdowns resulted in closure of liquor stores and the Maharashtra excise policy allowed home delivery of alcohol and the company  created Beerbox that allows aBeer stores to facilitate home deliveries.  

At present, 20 aBeer stores are available on the platform across Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur. In Mumbai—8 aBeer outlets cover over 80 pin codes. By the end of May, the company will have 35 stores on its platform, said Sivasubramanian S, director of new business development, AB InBev India. More stores will be added in Pune, Nagpur and Nasik. 

States whose excise departments have allowed home delivery of alcohol are Assam, West Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Meghalaya, and Maharashtra. West Bengal and Odisha have allowed alcohol delivery via aggregators. Maharashtra allows store owners to handle the delivery of alcoholic beverages.  

 “For beer to grow in the country, there has to be more access. Premium beer, where we own a majority share, has to be sold in much better places. So, there is a larger layer of why we’re doing this which is to ensure accessibility and experience,” Sivasubramanian S said. 

Home delivery could expand the company’s share in the premium beer market and enable more women drinkers to enter the category. It also hopes to improve India’s per capita consumption of beer. 

 “Globally, we bring in rich toolkit of how to run stores, how to maintain standards, maintain inventory….we help run stores in the most profitable way and as a part of this collective we also provide better unit economics. We support them in terms of retail training, service quality, technology and software. And once we started deliveries, we also provide them that delivery related service toolkit,” he said. 

Sivasubramanian S said the company is in talks with various state governments to list the benefits of operating such a model. “Our opportunity is going to be tailored by each market. It all depends on how other states view the Maharashtra model. So, the next obvious choices are some of the key markets the metros in markets like Karnataka, or it could be Delhi…West Bengal that has a progressive liquor delivery policy,” he said.   

AB InBev isn’t the only company eyeing the home delivery ecosystem in the country. Earlier this year, India’s largest spirits company United Spirits Limited (USL) said it could explore the prospect of home delivery of liquor in India through its newly launched digital platform ‘In.thebar.com’ as and when regulations permit online sales of liquor.  ‘In.thebar.com’ is its digital marketing platform to drive consumer engagement. 

The liquor retail market in India is fragmented. The country has 60,000- 70,000 outlets for a large drinking population. There are very few premium or high-end stores.

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