Q&A: The duo bringing a drop of comfort to your door in tough times

This week we chat with Raj and Sahil Beri, co-founder of BevMart. Australia’s newest direct-to-consumer eCommerce platform sells a range of exclusive spirits, ready-to-drink cocktails and liqueurs. The range of was born in a family-owned, Australian distillery, with their international luxury portfolio exclusively imported.

ISB: What was the inspiration behind you founding BevMart?

RB: We’ve been operating Australian Boutique Spirits (the parent company of BevMart) for a number of years but traditionally focused only on manufacturing and export. We’ve always had a direct-to-consumer (DTC) initiative in the background with the ambition to transform Australian Boutique Spirits into a vertically-integrated business. So, COVID was really that pivot point to take action, especially with exporting becoming a challenge and on-premise sales declining during lockdowns.

With BevMart, we wanted to be able to offer value to our customers. By not splitting the margin throughout the traditional supply chain, we can offer very competitive prices at the segments we are targeting. Another major benefit of the DTC model is being able to control the customer relationship and shopping experience, and that’s something that can only be partially controlled through a traditional model. Customer experience is key to us and we want it to be a point of difference from our competitors.

ISB: And how did you go about combining your respective skillsets to make the business a success?

RB: Beyond being brothers, I think our individual skillsets really work nicely together. I’ve got a great personal and professional network through my 20 years of business experience and success in the liquor industry, and Sahil’s pharmaceutical background brings a unique take on product development and formulations in the space. Where I think we intersect is our drive for innovation and bringing new products to market. That’s really fueled our vision for BevMart.

I’m also based in the USA and CEO of Australia Boutique Spirits’ partner supplier, Elegance Brands. This definitely helps having someone on the ground when securing high-profile brands exclusively for the Australian market.

ISB: I understand technology was integral to you disrupting an established industry – please explain how.

SB: We have a vertically-integrated supply through our partners and in-house manufacturing capability. From there we sell directly to our customers via what will be various customer touch points – webite, app, voice and direct) – and we’ve adopted a headless architecture, decoupling the front end from the back end, to be able to achieve this. This-API centric approach gives us a lot of flexibility – we’re able to plug and play microservices much quicker – and keeps us agile in what is an ever-changing digital environment.

ISB: What impact has COVID had on the development of the business?

SB: It’s no surprise that eCommerce, in particular online liquor, has seen incredible growth during the COVID pandemic in Australia. BevMart has been fortunate during this period as well; we’ve seen a significant increase in demand for our products and being able to actually bring more staff on to support that.

ISB: What is your vision for the development of the business in the next couple of years?

RB: Growth and brand awareness is our primary focus at the moment for BevMart. We want BevMart to become one of Australia’s leading direct to consumer liquor retailers but also have ambitions to scale the brand globally.

ISB: And, finally, what is the number one lesson you’ve learnt on the BevMart journey you’d share with others looking to start their own business?

RB: It’s important to be able to move quickly and adapt, that’s how we are approaching BevMart. I’m a big fan of Reed Hoffman’s (PayPal, LinkedIn) quote, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” It’s important to get your product out there and get valuable user feedback and insights to shape it and make it better instead of trying to get it perfect before ever releasing it. This comes with a caveat, though, as this quote is often misunderstood. Don’t knowingly create something you’ll later regret. This mantra is not an excuse for lack of research or lack of regard for the end customer.

SB: Data and insights are key! You are flying blind without them. Not every brand or product is the same so testing to see what works – or failing fast, as some would say – is important for any business, new or established.