Government reviews Bev Q amidst mounting complaints from the public

Space marked out for customers at a Bevco outlet on Power House Road in Thiruvananthapuram which is scheduled to reopen on Thursday. S. Gopakumar S_GOPAKUMAR

Space marked out for customers at a Bevco outlet on Power House Road in Thiruvananthapuram which is scheduled to reopen on Thursday. S. Gopakumar S_GOPAKUMAR  

Mounting exasperation among the public over the glitches in the smartphone-based liquor purchase application, Bev Q, has forced the government to rethink its plans.

Excise Minister T. P. Ramakrishnan has called a high-level meeting at 2 p.m. to weigh whether the State should set aside the order that public can purchase liquor only via the application and restore the direct sale of alcohol as takeaways from stores and bars.

Kerala had banned the sale of liquor on March 25 as part of the COVID-19 lockdown. When it eased lockdown restrictions two months later in May, the government had contracted a start-up to create a smartphone application it hoped would help prevent overcrowding in front of liquor vends.

The Bev Q application enables customers to book a time slot in advance for purchasing liquor. The government believed that it would help limit the number of customers at a liquor outlet to less than ten at a time.

However, within hours of its launch, the application drew widespread criticism for being user-unfriendly. It also triggered scores of online posts trolling the government and angry outbursts on social media from buyers. The government could ill afford to ignore the public sentiment, an official attached to the Excise Minister's office said.

Biju Ramesh, an office-bearer of the Kerala Bar Hotel Association (KBHA), said the main drawback of the application was that it did not provide the customer with the liberty of choosing a nearby outlet.

The programme often allotted customers time slots at bars or liquor stores a good distance away from their neighbourhoods.

The machine-readable QR code assigned to customers rarely registered on scanners at the point of sale.

“When the salesperson notifies the company about the glitches in their software, the application developers ask us to record the address and mobile phone number of the buyer. They insist that salespersons capture the QR code assigned to individual customers on their mobile phones and send it to the administrators of the Bev Q application. Moreover, customers have to sign on a register to indicate they have made a purchase,” he said.

Mr Ramesh said the application has served only to complicate the simple process of purchasing liquor. “It takes at least 30 minutes for a sale person to dispose of a customer. The application is the primary cause of tight lines and brawls in front of bars and liquor stores,” he said.

Mr Ramesh said the KBHA had requested the government to allow the conventional sale of alcohol. He said illegal homemade alcohol had captured a large part of the liquor market in the State.

Liquor outlets processed an estimated 2.25 lakh orders received through the Bev Q application when alcohol sale resumed after a hiatus of 64 days. It was just a fraction of the actual demand. The per capita consumption of alcohol in Kerala is among the highest in the country.

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Printable version | Jul 8, 2020 5:13:25 AM |

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