Angad Singh, the visionary Co-Founder and CEO of Sip Direct, shares insights into the inspiration behind launching the platform, its unique value proposition, and the transformative impact it aims to bring to the beverage shopping landscape. With a focus on enhancing consumer choice, convenience, and transparency, Sip Direct is redefining the way consumers discover, purchase, and enjoy their favorite beverages. Dive into this exclusive interview to learn more about Sip Direct’s innovative approach, its commitment to responsible alcohol delivery, and its plans for future expansion in the evolving digital commerce landscape of India.

Can you share the inspiration behind launching Sip Direct and how it aims to revolutionise the beverage shopping experience?

My experience as a business consultant at KPMG exposed me to a wide range of clients in the e-commerce sector, particularly in India and the Middle East. After working extensively in digital commerce for over a decade, I was keen to leverage my expertise and embark on an entrepreneurial journey. 

In the reasonably crowded e-commerce landscape in India, I narrowed down an opportunity in the beverage industry with the help of my Mentors and early-stage investors, specifically in setting up a digital platform for alcoholic beverages. Thus, Sip Direct was founded with a mission to become a specialist and enhance consumer choice, convenience, and transparency in beverage purchases, while contributing to accelerated digitization to revitalise the industry at large.

How does Sip Direct differentiate itself from other alcohol delivery platforms in the market?

Traditional beverage retailers have been the champions of beverage retail for the longest time. In pockets, they have also evolved to improve the Consumer experience by expanding the width of products on offer, improved browsability of the premises and trained staff to assist the buyers. There is still significant scope for improvement, because a typical well-travelled digital savvy consumer shall instantly compare this experience to typical e-commerce or duty-free outlets or beverage retailers abroad. 

Online platforms have attempted this in pockets across the country, with varied level of success, but we are yet to see one that has cracked the code of wide spread acceptance and scale. This is where Sip Direct would like to step in – not by differentiating against or competing with the beverage retailers, but by giving them a digital footprint. As a digital intermediary between an age verified consumer and a licensed alcohol retailer, Sip Direct can significantly improve consumer delight, and let the traditional retailer continue serving their customers albeit via 

On one hand, we can aggregate consumer demand digitally and on the other translate it into digital orders for licensed retailers in the vicinity to fulfil said orders. Consumers therefore get the added benefits of convenience and choice, while brands can leverage the digital space to share their brand stories and product information to interested age verified consumers. This would be particularly useful for lesser known or newer brands, all thanks to Sip Direct! 

Our model also gives select benefits over other platforms as well. For instance, the consumer’s purchases are no longer limited by the stock at the nearest retailer. When a product is not in stock, another retailer in the vicinity can service said order. Additionally, brands and retailers stand to benefit from off-market orders, which can be logged in 24×7 by consumers and serviced by the outlet during operational hours.

Can you elaborate on the unique services offered by Sip Direct, such as the at-home bartender and virtual bar assistance?

By design, Sip Direct is different for different stakeholders in the value chain. For the end-consumer, we have attempted to build our value proposition such that all the beverage needs of a consumer are addressed by our service offerings in a quick and easy fashion. This includes access to credible information about products, pairings, serving styles, recipes etc., a convenient way to discover new products and learn more about your favourite drinks, enhanced choice of exploring a wide range of beverage SKUs, bar accessories and more, and eventually the option to engage specialist bartenders or mixologists for managing your bar during your get-togethers or special occasions. For the Brands, Sip Direct provides a much-needed digital channel to showcase their brand stories to interested and age verified consumers thereby removing the dependency on store employees to introduce their brand to consumers and respond to their queries. With a controlled digital presence on the platform, the brands can be digitally discovered, consumers can learn more about them and potentially choose to engage with them.

In a similar vein, the platform can enable retailers to get more insights about their local markets, consumer preferences and access to digital solutions for planning and forecasting. They also get access to aggregated demand from Consumers in their hyper-locality along with a way to leverage their width of products. Last but not the least, the Regulators get an opportunity to access relevant insights about consumption trends in their regions, along with enhanced transparency on account of a  digital footprint.

What challenges did you face while digitising the beverage ecosystem, and how did you overcome them?

Interestingly, not many realize that alcoholic beverages are also FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) though the products are hardly treated as such by the ecosystem for various reasons. Policy framework and regulatory aspects aside, we faced some interesting challenges at our current scale: 

Acceptance: industry has significant legacy and there is some resistance in stakeholders to change. Digitization is one element that challenges status quo, and warrants reconditioning of stakeholders.

We try and mitigate this by engaging directly with the stakeholders in person, showing them detailed demos and offering to do low-cost limited scale pilots so they can see the model in action.

Legitimacy: in the absence of documented policies to govern dos and don’ts of digitization, such attempts are frequently looked at with scepticism and concern. Not only are the approvals warranted, but they must be adequately communicated and complied with at all times.

Joint conversations with regulators, clear and transparent agreements, working relationships built on trust, together help build trust in the platform.

Product Availability: surprisingly, there is fairly high degree of unpredictability in availability of stock across outlets – including fast-moving mass-market items. Stocks are some times in short supply, and are sold faster than anticipated in other scenarios.

Forwarding orders to next closest outlet(s), sharing estimated demand in advance, working directly with brands on stock-out situations are a few action items to help mitigate this issue.

Other risks: multiple other risks such as price changes, potential breakages,  orders from outside service areas, absence of chilled beer, address change requests etc. show up from time to time. We’re building our mitigation strategy for multiple such risks, and hope to get even better as we grow.

What measures does Sip Direct take to ensure responsible alcohol delivery and consumption?

That is a great question and a focus item for all of us here at Sip Direct. We have put our best foot forward to ensure that Consumers have access to the right information and make informed decisions about their drinking preferences. Only age verified users are permitted to purchase alcoholic beverages from the platform; a check further amplified by training the delivery associates. Among various initiatives, we:

a) Information: each product that we catalogue carries detailed information about ingredients, tasting notes, alcohol percentage among other aspects for consumers to evaluate.

b) KYD or Know Your Drinks: where we have placed details about different types of drinks so Consumers can educate themselves about different categories of alcohol.

c) Access to Non-alcoholic beverages: To add to the Consumers’ choice and preference to avoid alcoholic beverages, we have a range of non-alcoholic beverages, including 0% alcohol wine, beer, and others.

d) One-side opaque bags: our tamper proof bags are transparent on one side for consumers to check products, but opaque on the other, to offer discretion and unpleasant scenarios around carrying alcohol.

e) “Sip responsibly & in moderation”: One of our mottos to guide the Consumers to be cognizant of the ‘what’ and ‘how much’.

By design, delivery of these beverages to your preferred location, say home, helps you consumer the beverages in privacy and safety, thereby removing the need to drive for purchase and avoiding potentially unpleasant interactions with others in your vicinity. It is a deeply personal decision to consumer or avoid alcohol, and one that we fully respect. There is neither glorification of consumption nor encouragement to do so. For individuals who choose to consume, we are there with safe and convenient delivery. For those who choose not to, alternate products are just a click away.

What are your plans for expanding Sip Direct to other states like Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana? Are there any specific strategies you plan to implement in these new markets?

As you are aware, liquor is a state subject and the excise policy is carefully crafted and maintained considering the nuances of the region. Under the Digital India umbrella, most of these states have already been active at digitising the ecosystem – especially with elements of supply chain management, digital licensing and auctions, MIS and other behind the scene elements. Digitization of B2C retail is a different ball game, where not only does the policy have to protect the safety of consumers and commercial interests of the licensees, but has a significant challenge of enforcement. In the best interests of Consumers and society at large, Regulators ensure alcohol consumption is neither promoted nor advertised, underage individuals do not get exposed to or access alcohol and that genuine products exchange hands while spurious products do not enter the value chain. This is where the individual States are likely to take their time to ensure due safeguards are in place before mass digitization is permitted.

It is still early days for India and digital commerce of beverages, but multiple State Governments are proactively evaluating the contours of digitization and aspire to evolve in sync with Digital India. We are in conversation with the relevant stakeholders to identify both the right time and operating model to operate in those regions. We have the precedent from more evolved economies such as the US, which follow a similar state driven three tier distribution structure for beverages. Over the last decade or so, digital commerce in alcohol has been proliferating and we may not be far behind. In China, UK, Singapore, and other regions too, ecommerce operations in beverages have now been around for a good number of years and have been quite successful.

How does Sip Direct curate its product offerings to cater to the diverse preferences of its customers?

Like any other consumer facing brand, we exist only as long as our Consumers love and support us. The evolved ecommerce consumers are quite demanding and have high expectations from digital service providers having been exposed consistently to world class user experiences through industry leading firms like Flipkart, Swiggy, Zomato, Amazon among others. To be able to attract and more importantly retain them, we must be just as good, if not better.

Our consumer journeys have been thoroughly reviewed and iteratively improved, both system and process controls deployed as safeguards of the end user’s experience and we are quick at accepting and incorporating feedback where feasible. Communication and grievances are closely monitored, and we try to be as swift at mitigation as possible. 

Some of our features were designed to enhance the users’ buying experience and we believe we have been able to deliver on those. For instance,

  • Ability to order alcohol and mixers together
  • Product first view, bypassing the need to select retailers to see products
  • Detailed product pages, with relevant information on each product
  • OTP based hand-offs; and more

There are still areas for us to improve. Some challenges that remain include – stock availability with Licensed Retailers, timely deliveries during traffic periods or bad weather, availability of chilled beer and others. We are still in our early stages, and are continuously evolving to do better.

Can you discuss the technology behind Sip Direct that supports its seamless beverage discovery and delivery process?

The Indian beverage industry is significantly large, with the alcobev component of the industry alone estimated at close to $ 60 Bn – an aggregate of millions of transactions across the country with a less- than-ideal purchase experience in many cases. For 300 Mn+ online shoppers, they can typically discover and engage with their favourite brands online in almost all categories except beverages.

Enter Sip Direct. This is where Sahil Sharma, my co-founder, and I have worked with our team to identify friction points and areas of improvement in the purchase journey. We are working towards building robust digital solutions that can enhance the customer’s experience. This forms the core input for all team members for Sahil’s board as he goes about designing the product’s evolution:

Discovery: a walk-in customer today can only browse the products that are visible in the shelves of their

nearest outlet. On Sip, through a combination of filters, searches and easy brows ability, almost a thousand SKUs will be at your fingertips.

Information: a typical store employee will have functional knowledge about the products and perhaps

lean on his training to talk through fast moving or popular brands. But on Sip, you will have detailed product information about all SKUs in a standard format and available for quick reference.

Time: the store is accessible only for half a day, during the approved operational hours. Sip Direct is available on your phone 24 x 7, whenever you think of your favourite products and have time at hand.

Convenience: you first drive to an outlet, find appropriate parking, queue up for purchases, pay using available modes and then head back. In contrast, you can skip the queues, pay using any RBI approved instrument and not leave the comfort of your home while completing the transaction.

Pairing: a major friction point for beverage consumers in multiple locations is the inability to buy mixers from the licensed outlet (that is approved for only alcohol sale). On Sip Direct, you access alcohol, mixers, barware and more at the same place.

Bulk orders: for a get together at home, you may have taken appropriate approvals and / or like to exercise a purchase up to the maximum permissible limit. In either case, you may not be able to carry the products on foot or a two-wheeler. In such cases too, Sip Direct can come to your rescue.

Assistance: recipes to make your favourite cocktails or mocktails, knowledge of which glasses to use for what beverages, ideal serving temperature for drinks or even physical assistance of mixing your beverages via a Bartender or Mixologists, Sip Direct can enable it all.

Collaborative cart: multiple individuals can add their preferred products to the same shared cart to make get togethers a breeze!

How do you envision the future of online alcohol delivery platforms, and where do you see Sip Direct fitting into this landscape?

We are working towards making Sip a functional and trusted brand in the consumer beverage space. Despite its scale, beverages have not gotten their due on horizontal or food platforms at large. As a niche and focused beverage first digital brand, Sip stands to deliver on multiple counts for multiple stakeholders in the value chain. As we scale over the weeks to come, we should have one of the largest catalogues of detailed product information on beverage SKUs. For users to discover new products, or learn more about ingredients, allergens, tasting notes and other useful information, Sip Direct can be the primary source.

Where feasible under the policy, Sip Direct will enable digital fulfilment of beverages via licensed retailers, adding a layer of unparalleled convenience for the consumers. This could be the ease of buying food but with the safety of purchasing a high risk regulated category of say pharmaceuticals. We are also keen to work with the State Governments to leverage Consumer and Retailer insights as inputs for policy considerations. Data driven analysis from multiple regions and demographics can help facilitate decision making for the betterment of all concerned stakeholders in the long run.

Most importantly, Sip Direct can unify the different elements of the value chain on one single technology platform, opening avenues for seamless transaction management, insight generation, traceability, transparency and more! Sahil, I, and the extended team at Sip believe that once implemented at scale, this less digitised cousin of FMCG shall be on track to evolve just as fast, if not more!

Each state has different market dynamics and regulations, so we have chosen to make our platform configurable and customizable. This ensures that we effectively slice and dice our suite of digital services to operate different element in different regions. 

We are also in advanced conversations with different states for their inputs on the overall product, so we can build in advanced functionality and features which address their concerns in advance. These include track ‘n trace, price control, authentication checks and others. So, you should see more of us soon!

Are there any upcoming features or services that customers can look forward to from Sip Direct?

We are soon launching a pan-India feature, under which we will be able to offer barware, bar accessories and select non-alcoholic beverages to our consumers anywhere across the country. Bartending as a Service is picking up, and we should soon be able to offer Consumers custom made packages with glasses-on-rent, mixers and more along with an experienced Mixologist to manage their Bar. 

We are likely to have a Global catalogue live soon on, which will give Consumers access to product details of a much wider range of beverages, regardless of availability in their region. Another key project is on the B2B side, where we are already working with select brands to take their product stories to interested age verified consumers and are likely to expand our horizons there to work with new age brands to facilitate market entry into regions of our operations. 

The platform offers both insights and access, which can be instrumental for brands as they attempt to build their footprint. These are some short-term ones. The overall product roadmap is quite comprehensive and promises to bring several industry-first and innovative features to beverage consumers soon!

How does Sip Direct collaborate with beverage brands and suppliers to ensure a wide and varied product range for its customers?

It is still early in our journey to comment on the success or longevity of our partnerships, but we have had quite a few along the way. Our Licensed Retail Partners as well as Delivery Partners have been the backbone of our operational prowess. We could not have been where we are today without their support and efforts.

We got a head start thanks to our Mentors, Early Investors and Advisors as we started shaping up what you see today as Sip Direct. We are also indebted to the Regulators, specifically the Excise Department in multiple states who gave us a patient hearing to share their feedback and perspectives. Likewise for industry stakeholders who engaged with us early on to share their thoughts and helped us build right. Ditto for the experts who helped us in branding, social media, technology, and other elements of our business. Their contributions gave us the stepping stone to future success. Last but not the least, our champion collaborators have been the early adopters – consumers who discovered us, loved us, and not only continue to engage with the platform but have been our advocates to their network. They make us tick and we will do all we can to continue to delight them!

What role does customer feedback play in the continuous improvement and evolution of Sip Direct’s platform and services?

Sip Direct addresses gaps by offering a comprehensive platform that enhances customer experience at every step of the purchasing journey. From enabling seamless discovery of nearly a thousand SKUs through intuitive browsing and filtering, to providing detailed product information in a standardised format, Sip ensures informed decision-making. Its 24/7 accessibility eliminates the constraints of traditional store hours, offering convenience and flexibility. Customers can bypass queues, utilise various payment methods, and complete transactions from the comfort of their homes. Sip Direct also resolves the challenge of acquiring mixers alongside alcoholic beverages, offering a range of products in one platform. It accommodates bulk orders and provides additional support such as cocktail/mocktail recipes, guidance on glassware selection, and access to professional bartenders or mixologists for personalised assistance, aiming to revolutionise the Indian beverage industry by seamlessly integrating digital solutions and enhancing the customer experience.

Lastly, what message would you like to convey to our audience about Sip Direct and its mission to make beverage shopping more convenient and enjoyable?

Digitally enabled consumers today can access most product and services via the click of a button, ranging from food, groceries, cabs, travel, hospitality, medicines, education, finances and even entertainment. The basic premise and unwavering promise of is to offer you the same degree of convenience for all your beverage requirements. Very soon, we will be able to help you find just the right beverage, tell you which mixer to pair it with, what cocktail to make, using the barware we will sell and even extend you the option of hiring a bartender via us for your get together. The platform shall help you discover new beverages, and in time, be able to ship your products to you even before you shop!