In many Russian regions, the sale of beverages with an alcohol content greater than 15 percent is banned at night and other laws are going into effect to limit the sale of alcoholic beverages from street kiosks. But these regulations have had the unintended effect of creating a business opportunity: evening delivery services of spirits. Russia India Report recently met up with one of these entrepreneurs to discuss his venture and its success so far.
Why is the service so profitable?
I was thinking of various ideas of how to start a business and it dawned on me that, to launch this type of service, you do not need more than a small amount of starting capital, a car and knowledge of advertising on social networks. Besides, the anti-alcohol laws passed in the Russian Federation are extremely controversial and are unlikely to cut the rate of deaths and poisonings. These laws are simply unfair and I want to restore justice. Gaps in the legislation make this business virtually legal. We do not sell alcohol; we provide it for free. So we are within the law. What we do sell are juices and soft drinks that go with alcohol.
Don’t you think that such a service would be more in demand in other Russian cities, where life comes to a standstill after dark, whereas in Moscow, if you have the money, you can get alcohol at any bar.
Despite what you may think, not every place in Moscow has a bar around the corner. Plus, drink prices at bars are double what we charge for our services. Secondly, there are some things that keep you away from a bar: smoke, noise and a lack of open tables. Moscow has a permanent population of 15 million and we will always find our clients among them. But this is a growing service in the provinces too. Virtually every big city has an alcohol delivery service.
What can you say about the competition?
So far we have only one serious rival and that is a delivery service attached to a bar. All the others either have very high prices, break the law or have an inept servicing scheme.
What are the costs of your services?
It won’t be much more expensive than buying quality alcohol during the day at a kiosk near a metro station. We bring alcohol to you at home at night, together with everything you need to chase it down. Our firm is aimed at well-heeled clients who can afford quality alcohol and are willing to spend money for it. The first decision we made was not to work with Russian brands, because there is too much fake alcohol around, which might cause poisoning. We buy only imported alcohol. The minimum price for a bottle is 650 rubles ($22), and that’s for half a liter of whiskey, vodka or vermouth. But we deliver only if the order is at least 1300 rubles ($44).
Doesn’t’ that lose you a lot of clients?
No, we make our pitch to parties of several people. We do not encourage solitary drinking. If three successful young men get together, they will have no problem spending 500 rubles ($15) each ordering alcohol to their home. A liter for three is not all that much, I think.
Have you yourself ever used the services of such firms?
No, I am not a frequent drinker. But I think if people want to have a drink at night, they are entitled to do so and they should not be deprived of that right.
Don’t you feel that there is a disconnect between the fact that you have to be sober, because you deliver orders and cannot drink and drive, while you encourage your clients to drink?
Our firm is not encouraging anyone to drink. We preach the policy of social responsibility; we do not serve drunken people and we do not go to the same address twice during a single night. In general, we are in favor of a healthy lifestyle. In the future we plan to organize sporting activities for our clients, such as games (basketball, football, hockey) and races on weekends, not just discounts and alcoholic birthday gifts.
What does social responsibility mean to you?
It means understanding the problems of our society and acting on the principle “do no harm” and not aggravating the problems that exist.
I have to admit that it is very hard – all but impossible – to start a small business in Russia; there is no state support. But the situation surrounding alcohol provides a good opportunity for people who want to do business and have only a small amount of capital. It’s a chance worth taking.