HipBar: A mobile app that moves the bar to the cloud, and promotes responsible drinking
Pipped as “the bar on the cloud”, HipBar is a mobile wallet and is India’s first digital currency exclusively meant for transacting adult beverages.
It’s all about raising the bar — and the team over at HipBar took that maxim literally, and moved their bar to the cloud. Pipped as “the bar on the cloud”, HipBar is a mobile wallet and India’s first digital currency exclusively meant for transacting adult beverages. The HipBar ecosystem serves as an age-verified platform, and a responsible marketplace.
Through the HipBar Mobile App, you can explore a wide selection of drinks from your favourite watering holes and liquor stores, pre-pay for the drinks (at very special prices) and stock 'em in your bar on the cloud. When you feel the thirst, you can get your drink served from your bar on the cloud account, from liquor stores and bars.
If you are new to the circuit, explore the liquor stores around you. Once you are at an affiliated liquor store and have got what you wanted, tap the app to pay and check out. When you are at an affiliated bar, order your drinks as usual (just make sure you have it stocked on the cloud), and when you are good to go, tap the app to settle the tab.
HipBar is founded by Chennai-based entrepreneur Prasanna Natarajan. He previously founded Sipping Spirits, India's first boutique spirit bottling company in 2007, quietly carving a niche in the Indian alco-bev space.
Over the years, the beverage-alcohol industry landscape has changed and MNCs have gained prominence over domestic players and this has led to higher standards of compliance and accountability. But the issues marring the industry have been largely left unattended and MNCs are finding it tough to harness the opportunity, despite being in the game. On the other hand, the consumer group of young, upwardly mobile tech-savvy Indians with rising earnings potential and disposable incomes is increasing at a rapid pace. This group is digitally savvy, adopt trends early and embrace new technology with ease.
"I have been running Sipping Spirits as a hands-on entrepreneur for a decade after setting it up from the scratch. I faced numerous challenges in growing the business and when I spoke to the industry leaders, surprisingly they all echoed the same sentiments — which is when I realised the problems are endemic and size did not matter. Early last year, I put together an action plan to challenge the status quo, and come up with answers to the industry's problems through technology. That action plan is HipBar".
“The customer can redeem his/her brand either in full or in serving sizes at partner restaurants, bars and pubs. The consumption will be recorded in his account and the balance drink can be used later on,” said Prasanna. This facility, he said, promotes responsible drinking as well, for the consumer.
HipBar also seeks to work as a discovery platform, allowing the consumer to check out the catalogue of products on offer, as well as to find out if the restaurant or bar they intend to visit stocks their favourite brand. “Our focus is to improve the customer’s real world experience, their choices and the places,” says Natarajan. “When in full bloom, customers will find it more interesting to get their drinks from HipBar, than otherwise.”
HipBar aims to position itself as the go-to platform for consumers and adult beverage brands to connect in India. The platform is unique in its proposition already has buy-ins from reputed brands and key outlets in the launch market of Bengaluru. With a distinct first mover advantage, HipBar has a grand vision for enriching the experience of its customers and business partners in many innovative ways. Under evaluation and blue printing are new initiatives which, over a period of time, will strengthen the core value proposition of HipBar, including the ultimate home delivery service.
Launched about four months ago in Bengaluru, the app has received quite an encouraging response. In Bengaluru, HipBar has tied-up with 60 brands and over 50 restaurants.
Prasanna is also working with governments and state run liquor corporations to resolve the issues faced by them due to the Supreme Court’s ban on sale and consumption of liquor within 500 meters of national and state highways. Prasanna said: “The policy makers are much more forthcoming after the ban. Even many brands are showing interest in partnering with us, as it provides them another avenue to sell their product. They understand that the solution lies in technology and HipBar brings that technology to overcome this barrier and ensure smooth business operations.”
So far no online portal could successfully work on the liquor business as Indian laws do not permit the sale and purchase of liquor on digital channels. But HipBar could overcome this legal obstacle by identifying itself as a pure-play fintech company that has simply created a digital wallet to facilitate offline payments where a user technically does not buy alcohol through the app — he merely uses the wallet to load money, which is in turn used to settle the bill.
Its popularity among consumers can be gauged from the fact that the RBI-certified mobile wallet had recorded over 100,000 downloads on both iOS and Android platforms within a month. The initial response of daily transactions — which has already touched an average of Rs 2.5 lakhs a day — is sure to bring in a big number of brands and create much greater choice for the consumers. Currently operating only in Bengaluru, HipBar has shortlisted two other cities in the south to expand its footprint.
HipBar has a long way to go and its team is working round the clock to bring on a larger number of retail stores and restaurants on board. There is a behind-the-scenes customer-care network manned by a 16-member call centre in Chennai to ensure that all transactions are safe and nothing goes wrong. The success of HipBar, after all, depends on how much magic they can bring to the table — along with the drinks.