Buying liquor, which is as simple as going to a grocery store around the world, is a task still difficult to imagine for women in the city. She says most women still rely on male friends to buy alcohol for them locally or at duty-free stores.
Delhi government’s new excise policy which plans to promote private participation in modernising liquor vends is just what many women shoppers like Sinha had wished for. She says buying liquor should be as simple as visiting a duty-free shop where one gets the best of global options without any sweat. “This is a great move. This will make stores accessible and better brands available,” said Sinha.
Shriram Monga of SRED, a retail consultancy, says with liberal excise policies, a few good stores had started opening across the city over the past few years. Rather than being at secluded spots, Monga says, these are nicely designed stores at prominent malls and metro stations that give confidence to people to shop. Private participation will allow for more liquor stores at good locations across the city, which will have a modern ambience and ease of shopping, feels Monga.
As much as restaurateurs are relieved at the lowering of drinking age from 25 to 21, many are eagerly looking forward to increased private participation in the liquor business. Restaurateur Navneet Kalra, who runs multiple outlets in the city, says that rather than be dependent on the excise department, he hopes to be able to procure liquor directly from these modernised shops.
Just as people go to good restaurants that have multiple options, Kalra says restaurateurs too now will source only from retailers that offer a good price and options of liquor from across the world besides better availability and stocks. This move, he says, will do away with consumers or restaurants being dependent on anyone for their alcohol and not be forced to buy only what’s available.
Namita Chhabra, who runs a liquor store in Mayapuri, welcomes the decision but adds that most vendors like her would like the government to ensure that there is no bidding for existing private licence holders like her. Being among the very few women in the city to own and operate an L7 licensed liquor store in the city, Chhabra says private participation should not come at the cost of big players wiping out individual operators like her.
She says there should be enough safeguards for her, existing private licences should be renewed for the full year, a better retail experience ensured and checks put in place to prevent big conglomerates from monopolising the market and making only their brands available.
The primary reason for the government decision to exit the liquor business is leakage of revenue. On an average, a government outlet gives Rs 5 crore in excise duty annually while a private outlet gives Rs 8 crore.
Buying liquor from a government-owned shop can often turn into an exercise in jostling and grabbing whatever is available. The choices are limited and there is no opportunity to browse. The private shops which are going to replace the government ones will be far bigger and also provide a walk-in experience.
Delhi government’s liquor shops are run by Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation, Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation, Delhi State Civil Supplies Corporation and Delhi Consumer’s Cooperative Wholesale Store Ltd which will return to focusing on their primary work when the government exits the retail liquor trade. “The advantage of having minimal governmental presence in the retail sector is that it helps keep a check on the tendency of private players to engage in malpractices like overcharging and cartelising,” said an official.
(With inputs from Alok KN Mishra)