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Diageo India invests in alcohol delivery & payment company Hipbar


Alcohol-delivery startup HipBar has secured investment of Rs 27 crores from Diageo India.

Diageo is present in India through its subsidiary United Spirits Limited, which sells alcohol brands like VAT69, Black Dog, Black Label, Smirnoff, Signature, Johnnie Walker, Antiquity, Royal Challenge, McDowell’s No.1 amongst others. With this investment, Diageo has acquired a 26% equity stakes in HipBar.

HipBar allows users to reserve alcohol and pay for it via its own wallet, and get it delivered at their doorstep or pick it up from a retail store nearby. The service which is currently only available in Bengaluru claims to offer delivery of spirits, wines and beers between 2 PM and 10 PM.

The company seems to be unsure about how to label itself as its FAQ page says that “HipBar is an RBI-authorized mobile wallet for alcoholic beverages,” but the first line on its Press Kit says that “HipBar is India’s first, legitimate drinks delivery app.” Payment for the deliveries can only be made via HipBar’s own mobile wallet, and wallet users have to comply to  KYC norms, on paper this should add another layer of verification to prevent delivery to underage consumers.

In its terms of use, the company says that before handing over of the products to a user,  the merchant or its authorized agents validates the identity through a biometric (fingerprint) authentication process using Aadhaar. And, “if Aadhaar card isn’t available, any government-recognised, original documents shall be accepted for age verification purposes – Driving License, Passport, PAN Card or Voter ID.”

The company works in two models, b2c, and b2b. On the B2B front, HipBar provides SaaS products such as e-governance module, Point-of-Sale (POS) machines, and payment wallet for government-controlled retail stores.

HipBar was started back in 2007 by Prasanna Natarajan as an internal project to help market the brands of Sipping Spirits (SS), and then HipBar was turned into the business and was formally incorporated in 2015. It currently operates only in Bengaluru. Note that in April 2017, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) granted a PPI licence to HipBar.

Alcohol Online

There have been some efforts though to start online delivery of alcohol in India but it doesn’t seem to have panned out well. There was LetsBuyDrink.com which operated as a marketplace in Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad and Mumbai but it shut down. Similar efforts were mounted by WineBazaar.in or Bozzr.com even they had to shut down operations. There is, however, Bengaluru-based Madhuloka, a retailer which has 17 stores in the city. There seems to be some sort of legal grey area that allows these platforms to operate in Bengaluru but not in any other city.

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