Cloudy with a chance of spirits

The story of how Prasanna Natarajan and team came up with a wallet for your drinks

Published - March 16, 2017 11:31 am IST

Chennai,15-03-2017: Tamil Nadu:  For MetroPlus: Prasant Adurty and Prasanna Natarajan of Hip Bar privte limitted . Photo: Shaju John

Chennai,15-03-2017: Tamil Nadu: For MetroPlus: Prasant Adurty and Prasanna Natarajan of Hip Bar privte limitted . Photo: Shaju John

A bar on the cloud. That’s how city-based entrepreneur Prasanna Natarajan calls his two-week-old venture, Hip Bar. Simply put, “it’s a wallet for your drinks”. The app, available for download in iOS and Android platforms, allows one to reserve their favourite drinks by paying for it online, and then redeem it in a bar or retail store that sells alcoholic beverages.

The concept

The revolutionary idea has not been tried before; “there has not been much innovation in the liquor industry, people have always stayed away from it because they do not know the boundaries.”

But Natarajan has been part of the scene for over a decade now. He has his own liquor manufacturing unit in Goa, Sipping Spirits Private Limited, which he started in 2007. “I learnt everything on the fly. Unless people have gone through that experience, they will not know what not to do. And that is what I bring to the table.”

Three years ago, he moved to Chennai, after finding his work in Goa a tad stagnant. From his experience, he figured that there are a lot of problems in consumers and brands coming together. “Everybody can create a great product, but to take it to the customer is the real difficulty,” he says. Hip Bar was born as a solution to that.

“It’s very similar to saving your documents in a Dropbox and fetching it whenever you need it.” Say you bought a bottle of Grey Goose Vodka through the app, and you go for a night out to a resto bar that is also associated with Hip Bar; you can then redeem just that portion from your buy, and save the latter for the next outing, he explains.

The team

At his office in Gandhi Nagar, a 35-member young team (of bankers, engineers, artists, lawyers) is busy getting the final details in place, before they roll out the app live in around 40 bars in Bengaluru. As of now, it has tied up with over 60 retail stores (all in Bengaluru).

In Chennai, it’s set to launch in a month-and-a-half. “In Tamil Nadu, we have bars, but retail is still controlled by the Government, so it will take some time before we can start working with them,” says Natarajan.

“Within one week of it being operational, we have had over 6,000 downloads,” adds Prashant Adurty, who joined the team in December 2016. With years of experience in operations and supply management, Adurty articulates, “What is important to know is one doesn’t purchase through our app; one reserves it. Technically, you cannot buy liquor online or sell. That’s why we have the digital wallet structure; that’s why we took the pains to go and register in the Reserve Bank of India. When you reserve a drink, there is a time frame for you to go to the store and pick it up – a reasonable time frame of 30 days.”

What’s next?

Now, the team is talking to bars in Chennai, and working on features that remind people when they are exceeding their limits, and have an integrated system within the app through which they can hail a cab if they have had a drink too many.

“Today, the world has moved on from stop drinking to drink responsibly... lifestyle and mindsets have changed,” says Natarajan. Hip Bar is probably a by-product of this change.

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