The crippling nationwide lockdowns and continuing restrictions on sale of alcoholic beverages in brewpubs and restaurants is a very dismal state, and we are nowhere near the end of the tunnel. We in the food and beverages industry are struggling with the restrictions.
The government needs to help us out. This industry indirectly supports many lakh people and their families – to be neglected like this is very shocking.
Some states have rolled back the ‘Covid tax’ and some others have increased the overall duty on liquor. Unfortunately, everyone is broke, and hence it is a tough call for governments to raise revenue through liquor licensing or retail sales.
Some of our laws are very archaic and need to change with the times. Home delivery of liquor, supply of beer in growlers, etc. has been permitted in some states. This hopefully will open the governments’ eyes and bring us on level with the rest of the world.
So far as social behaviour is concerned, people will accept the ‘new normal’ as we call it. Spends will be erratic as we are yet to see the economic fall-out in terms of pay cuts, unemployment, etc. Once that starts, consumers will tighten their purses strings.
Options such as ready-to-drink offerings, cocktail mixers and ‘party packs’ have been on the horizon for a while now; and the current situation has fast-tracked this. A lot of companies have emerged selling these online and through home delivery channels.
The off-trade will be high now as it is the only window to procure alcohol. Companies should add products and services and offer that little extra to acquire new customers.
There will be some impact on brands at different points in the price ladder. The luxury segment will remain as is; the premium segment will see a bit of a negative shift, where aspiring consumers who had recently moved to premium from regular will be forced back. The regular segment will see a jump because of increase in demand.
Apart from making regulatory changes, the Central and state governments must offer a limited moratorium on GST to the food and beverage industry. We pay license fees in advance for a year, but we lost business in the last 4 months.
The remaining year ahead is also uncertain, so we are asking of a fee reduction and the option to pay it in instalments.
The three main lessons emerging from this crisis for me are: a) always save for a rainy day; b) nothing is considered safe in this world anymore – all businesses are vulnerable; and c) we have to be positive and survive, no matter what.