To curtail overcrowding outside liquor shops Delhi government authorises online liquor delivery. This is a result of the amended excise policy

Liquor lovers in Delhi need not go out to buy alcohol anymore. The Delhi government in a recent amendment authorised home delivery of liquor, using delivery apps. The excise law modification came on 25th May 2021. The amendment gazette notified that only L-13 license holders can deliver liquor orders. The orders must be received from customers using mobile apps and online web portals. And, delivery can only be done at residential addresses and not to any offices, hostels, or institutes. Customers can choose from a range of foreign and Indian brands using the app.

Last year during the pandemic peak, there were sights of overcrowded liquor shops throughout the nation. Without caring for their lives and maintaining social distancing norms, people were buying alcohol during the permitted timings. Hence the supreme court gave states an option to consider online liquor delivery. It believed this move would contain the virus spread at vends.

An important revenue source for states

Liquor is one of the highly contributing sources of revenue for many Indian States and Union Territories. States earn revenue when they impose either a VAT or Excise duty or both on alcoholic drinks. Tax applicable on alcohol is different in each state. Kerala for instance imposes more than 200 per cent tax. While states such as Gujarat and Bihar earn nothing through direct sales. Because they have completely banned alcohol consumption in their states. Also, Kerala and Tamil Nadu earn the highest tax revenue from liquor.

Hence, post the Supreme Court permission, some states considered online liquor delivery. This way they could also keep their revenue source unaffected. States such as West Bengal, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Punjab, Jharkhand, Kerala, and Odisha are providing online liquor delivery. 

Challenges faced

Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal began online liquor delivery operations last year. Swiggy, Zomato, and a few other local apps received alcohol delivery licenses. However, with low revenue and business scalability limitations, Zomato quit the process soon. But, Swiggy still continues to deliver liquor in these states. Speaking to the Times of India, a leading retailer in Kolkata recently said, “Most leading apps have withdrawn from the liquor home delivery system. The only major e-commerce player still doing it is Swiggy. The sales from home delivery is not even 20% of our counter sales on a normal day”. Online delivery also poses logistics problems, he added.

What’s in store for Delhi?

While liquor delivery is not new to Delhi, getting orders via mobile apps and web portals is. Because earlier L-13 license holders were allowed to deliver alcohol only after receiving orders via fax or e-mails. 

The ease of ordering is welcomed by retailers in the capital. “This is a welcome move and comes as a much needed respite. With the gradual unlocking, physical movement will increase in the city. However, given the rising cases in the country, it is imperative that consumers stay safe and indoors. Home-delivery of liquor is a great initiative which will give consumers access to a larger variety of brands from the comfort of their homes and also discourage drinking and driving. It will help boost sales and demand in the region. We hope that the other states soon follow suit,” said Prabhtej Singh Bhatia speaking to The New Indian Express, a few days back. Prabhtej is the co-founder and CEO of Simba Craft Beer in New Delhi.

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