Need a drink delivered? Cheers.com.np obliges.In a competitive ecommerce landscape, cheers.com.np has managed to distinguish itself by delivering alcohol to doorstops, and offering impeccable customer service.
Imagine sitting at home, thirsty. You’ve got some friends and family coming over, but you’re too busy cooking up a storm to go out and shop for an assortment of beer, wine and liquor. Before 2016, you’d have no choice but to trawl the city’s stores, stocking up on everything you need. But now, there’s a solution—cheers.com.np.
Established in July 2016, the five co-founders of Cheers Enterprise saw a gap in Nepal’s ecommerce market and swooped in. Since there was no ecommerce site that exclusively sold alcohol, cheers.com.np became Nepal’s first online liquor store, says Minesh Rajbhandari, General Manager and one of the five co-founders.
Setting up the company
The co-founders of Cheers come from diverse backgrounds. Some have years of experience working in the local liquor industry and so, know its ins and outs., while others, like Rajbhandari, a computer engineer, had worked at KK Mart. Others came from the banking and financial sector.
“All of us brought in our own area of expertise, all of which was crucial to establishing Cheers,” says Rajbhandari.
From the very beginning, the co-founders knew what the company should be: a one-stop online liquor store where customers could choose from a wide range of genuine domestic and international alcohol brands. The company decided to tie up directly with importers to source international alcohol brands, and local manufacturers to source domestic alcohol brands.
“The reason we tied up directly with importers and manufacturers was to cut out the middleman, so that we can keep our prices competitive and ensure that the products we sell are 100 percent genuine,” says Rajbhandari.
Their website, cheers.com.np sells everything from beer and wine to whisky, tequila and liqueurs, and the brands available include some of the world’s most popular labels.
In order for the company to become successful, its service needed to be excellent, say the organisers. This was particularly important, as many online stores that existed when Cheers entered the ecommerce landscape, weren’t particularly known for their service.
“There were already many people sharing experiences of how they had been delivered a completely different product from what they had ordered online,” says Rajbhandari. “There were an equal number of people complaining about how long it takes for their ordered products to be delivered.”
The reason behind many customers not getting the products they ordered, Rajbhandari says, was that many online stores didn’t have their own inventory and were rather relying on offline stores for products.
“That wasn’t a problem with us because we maintained our own inventory,” he says. “We also maintained our own full-time delivery personnel to ensure that our products are delivered to our customers on time.”
All of this things added to costs, but Rajbhandari says the company considers them investments. “It’s the little things we do,” he says. “For example, all our beer is delivered cold, and if, due to some reasons, that’s not possible, we inform our customers.”
Operating in a city like Kathmandu
Unlike customers who go online to buy gadgets and apparel, customers who place orders for alcohol online usually do so because they want to receive their products as soon as possible.
“Our customers range from people who suddenly have unexpected guests at home but they do not have alcohol to entertain their guests, to people who ran out of alcohol in a social event or a house party,” says Rajbhandari. “To these customers, the sooner we can deliver the better it is. But it’s often a challenge in a city like Kathmandu, where motorists often have to deal with long traffic jams and getting stuck in VIP convoys.”
Another major problem Cheers faces operating in Kathmandu is the absence of home addresses. To tackle this, from the very first day, the company has relied on Google Maps. Customers who place an order online have to geo-tag their delivery address on a map before checking out. The address is then conveyed to tablets with Cheers’ delivery personnel.
“If somebody places an order via phone, we tell them to give us their location or the nearest landmark, which is noted and entered on a map by our call centre team. Once our delivery personnel makes the delivery, he geotags the customers’ delivery address to the phone number, which we save on our backend system,” says Rajbhandari.
It is these measures to strengthen the backend system that the company has undertaken, says Rajbhandari, that now allows them to make deliveries within an average of just 37 minutes.
Today, Cheers offers free delivery for upto 6 kms outside the Ring Road and delivers from 10 am to 10 pm with cash and card payment options on delivery. It is also open 365 days a year.
Between 2016, the year Cheers launched, and today, the local ecommerce landscape has seen a lot of new players, and in order to attract customers, many sites have resorted to offering discounts to attract customers.
“A discount war is not a sustainable model, and it’s not the road we want to travel down. Many sites offer discounts but charge for delivery. Right from day one, our focus was our service, and that’s how we distinguish ourselves from the competition,” says Rajbhandari.
Even though alcohol companies and distributors, from time-to-time, offer freebies like t-shirts, bags, and beer glasses with beer products and whisky glasses with whisky products, many offline stores, says Rajbhandari, do not give those freebies to the customers who purchase the products. “Every time an importer or manufacturer offers such freebies, we list them on our website. It’s a very transparent system and not a single free item meant for customers gets taken by our staff,” says Rajbhandari.
When Cheers first started out, the company expected that most of their customers would place orders online. But the company soon realised that people prefered to place their orders by calling them, rather than going to their website, choosing what they want, and logging in.
“We were so wrong. I think going online and doing all that to buy alcohol was too much to do when you could just call and place an order,” says Rajbhandari.
In the company’s initial days, 80 percent of orders were made via phone calls. But today, it’s 60 percent calls and 40 percent online. “Online orders are increasing, and to ensure convenience while ordering online, we have started our own app, called ‘The Jhyappi App’, says Rajbhandari.
While Cheers used to be just a website that sold only alcohol, the platform now also sells snacks and cigarettes. “A lot of our customers gave us feedback that we should also include ready-to-eat dry snacks,” says Rajbhandari. Customers can now buy peanuts too, but the snacks options are limited. “We will soon be adding more snacks. We have also received a lot of feedback from our customers that we should also include some cooked snacks,” says Rajbhandari. “We are not too sure about that, but we are definitely seeing how we can work that out. It’s all about what our customers want.”