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How government regulations impact products?

Updated: Sep 18, 2020

The saga of Swiggy and Zomato’s alcohol delivery service in a metro vs. non-metro city. Adventures of government regulations and product planning.

Before I begin, this article identifies the cities of Siliguri in West Bengal and Gurugram in Haryana, as the non-metro and metro city respectively. Why?

Due to the pandemic caused lockdown, I chose to stay with my family in Siliguri and this discussion came out of a conversation with a close friend from Gurugram. Ain’t that straightforward? While speaking of alcohol home delivery services, my friend was in utter disbelief that Siliguri had this service available on the food delivery apps whereas Gurugram did not. After all, Gurugram is home to one of the biggest food delivery services, Zomato in India. And to top it, Swiggy on the other hand offers Genie, a local delivery service in Gurugram whereas Siliguri does not seem to be anywhere close to getting such service anytime soon.

So what exactly are we talking about here?

Here, you can see a screenshot of the Swiggy Genie App when tasks are to be added to the list for delivery.

It clearly mentions that “Delivery of alcohol, cigarettes, or any illegal items is prohibited by law”.

This indicates a potential customer in Gurugram that any of those listed items can’t be ordered as they are considered illegal. The understanding with which Swiggy’s Genie operates is undeniably clear and easy to understand in terms of communicating on how those items can’t be ordered.

Now switching to the conversation with my friend, after spending some time debating the possibilities of alcohol home delivery, we both decided to open the apps on our respective phones.

When we decided to exchange screenshots, I was able to see my friend’s reason to be in disbelief shift to belief.

Check out the app home page of Swiggy as visible in the two cities!

Siliguri has gladly announced since June 2020, that the alcohol delivery is available from 9:00 am to 8:30 pm. Yay. Whereas Gurugram is gladly talking about Instamart and declaring the sale of alcohol as illegal on Genie. Not so yay for alcohol enthusiasts when they see this, maybe.

Back on June 4th, 2020, Swiggy, Zomato announced its alcohol home delivery services in Kolkata, Siliguri. At the time of order, the user is required to undergo a one-time verification of their age by uploading a valid government ID. But West Bengal isn’t the first state, Jharkhand and Odisha were the first states to have availed the liquor delivery services permit from the government and start the services.

So, why food@work and not wine shops in Gurugram?

This is a classic example of how regulatory frameworks play a huge role in product decision making and consequently, the features and UI/UX of the solution.

At every implementation, various authorities and stakeholders are concerned and hence important that alternate strategies and plans are always put in place to manage a variety of circumstances. The regulations followed by different states in India are necessary to adhere to and must be considered at the time of product planning. These are situations that are unavoidable. More importantly, understanding people from various demographics are equally, if not less crucial.

The agile process of design and development is critical to ensuring that the team is ready to continuously build solutions in a dynamic manner without impacting efficiency or add costs. It is nothing but a matter of time that such business and product decisions affect the way products are perceived by the users and can have a significant bearing on how a user chooses one product over the other.

The available information might be little to know exactly why Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal were the first states to implement given the socio-political, economic, and environmental struggles they face, it is certainly a reminder to the product community that extensive user research, product offerings, and strategic business decisions can help in handling the regulatory battles in a better manner.

As for people in Gurugram, standalone wine shops are providing the same services, so they don’t really stand at any disadvantage in terms of accessibility.

Although it does seem like major metros will have to wait a little longer to get their alcohol home-delivered by Swiggy and Zomato until they receive the desired permits from the concerned authorities.


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