17 Dec 2017
3 min read
Nepal has seen huge changes in its online industry in recent years, with companies such as Daraz, Hamrobazar and Sastodeal becoming household names. Easy access, efficient service and growing consumer interest are some of the reasons that these companies have been gaining steam lately. Cheers is a recent addition to the list of companies going the online route. Established in 2016, Cheers is Nepal's first online liquor store, and it has since its inception built a reputation as a reliable one at that. "The company began with the idea of tapping into the growing potential of online shopping in Nepal by focusing on a product that no other online store had worked with--liquor," says Minesh Rajbhandari, the general manager of Cheers Enterprise Pvt Ltd.
In this interview with VMAG's Abhinav Amatya, Rajbhandari talks about the core ideas behind the company and how it has been able to deliver liquor promptly to its customers.
We came up with the idea for Cheers (website: cheers.com.np) because we realised that certain Nepalis had become used to shopping online--that quite a few of them were slowly but surely resorting to online stores to purchase everyday products such as food, electronics and clothing. Cheers was an attempt to capitalise on this trend and to offer something different to Nepalis. We decided to start an online liquor store that offered a wide selection of domestic and international brands of alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, cigarettes and so on. However, one of the main challenges we have faced is that Nepal's online store sector is still in its infancy. A large portion of Kathmanduís populace is still yet to be introduced to online shopping, while others are still getting used to online shopping. The customer base, therefore, isn't too large. To overcome this challenge, we have adopted a cross-platform approach for offering our services. Our primary platform is our website, through which customers can place their orders. And for those who're still skeptical of or are not too comfortable with shopping online, we have a designated call centre. We also use messaging apps such as Viber, an app that's used by many Nepalis, to take orders.
We decided to primarily work with liquor because it is a standardised product, as opposed to apparel and electronics, which differ depending on retailers' offerings. Commodities such as apparel and electronics require customers to go through the touch-and-feel process, while liquor sales don't face such obstacles. For example, a bottle of a particular brand of whiskey will have the same proportion of alcohol and have the same taste regardless of where you buy it from. The customers can therefore expect the same level of quality from us as they would expect from a foreign seller.
As far as liquor stores in Kathmandu go, price has always been the biggest competitive factor. Alcohol is a widely available commodity that's offered by a large number of liquor stores, all of which compete on the basis of price. Many stores sell liquor at lower prices to try and attract more customers, instead of trying to provide them with better services. It is due to this competition among the stores and the abundant supply of alcohol that the price level has become highly erratic in the market. Cheers, on the other hand, offers products at the maximum retail price (MRP), which is why our prices are more stable than the market prices. We focus more on providing quality service to our customers, rather than competing on the basis of price. Our services were designed to provide convenience to our customers. We do not charge any additional costs for delivery, and our services are available between 10 am and 10 pm, 365 days a year, including on holidays.
Cheers is the first Nepali venture that makes use of online platforms to sell alcoholic beverages and other similar products. There are certain perks to being the first mover in this sector, and one of them is that it has enabled us to establish a brand image for ourselves: the company's name has become, among our customers, synonymous with online liquor sales. Our customers' perception of our company has been overwhelmingly positive so far, and I think it's because of the quality and consistency of our services that we are where we are today.
It's only when we take too long to deliver orders that our customers express some annoyance. Such delays are usually caused by factors that are outside our sphere of influence, factors such as the distance of delivery or traffic congestion. The average time we take to deliver an order is 37 minutes. This is a number that we have arrived at after processing the delivery-data we have gathered in our database, through which we keep track of each delivery.
A problem that we, as well as most online stores in Nepal, regularly face is pinpointing the locations for delivery. To tackle this problem, we have come up with a system wherein customers are asked to pin their locations on a map while placing any orders through our website; after that, our delivery personnel can easily make the delivery. In case they place orders through calls, the customers are asked to describe their location using the nearest recognisable landmark. The delivery personnel will then pin the location on a map, which is also used for future reference in case an order is placed from around that same location. It's by using these techniques and strategies that we have been able to average just 37 minutes for our deliveries.
Because we deal in liquor, we do have certain barriers and restrictions set up by the government, the most pertinent one being that we are not allowed to sell our products to minors. In fact, all liquor companies and retailers are barred from selling their products to individuals who are 18 or younger. To ensure that we do not violate this rule, all our customers are required to state their date of birth when placing an order. And we stick to this policy despite the annoyance shown by customers when we ask for their date of birth.
Cheers is also not allowed to sell products beyond the specified hours. We close our services after 10 pm not because we don't see any prospect of selling the products after that hour, but because we are allowed to sell only up to 10 pm. This restriction applies to all businesses-whether they operate online or out of brick-and-mortar stores-that deal in alcoholic products.
The customer base
Most of our orders come from residential areas including Sanepa, Baluwatar and Lazimpat, and our customer base is mostly made up of people from the upper-middle class. These are people who usually do not have the time to go to the stores themselves, and are looking for a quick and convenient way to get some alcohol after a long day of work. And people from the upper class, I think, aren't in as much a rush as are people from the upper-middle class. To put it simply, our customers are people who own cars, but do not have chauffeurs.
Currently, we are based only in Kamaladi since it is, perhaps, the central hub of Kathmandu, but we do plan to expand to other parts of the city-it all depends on what volume of orders we get from which general area. For example, if most of our orders come from the Sanepa area, we might open a store in that area, but we will still be taking orders online.