We talked to Dr. Prashant Desai of Bottlecapps about the “non-VC” backed profitable SaaS company.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Dr. Prashant Desai: Thanks for asking. We are doing fine. Having trained in medicine, and specifically Immunology/Rheumatology, I have the ability to discern between valuable data and scientific data that does not merit value. We are all home-based, and my children are online for school. These are “unprecedented” times in our history, and it will take mental strength and agility to survive this pandemic. We are making strides to find a therapeutic treatment via vaccine, neutralizing antibody, or oral combination of virus inhibitors. But overall, my family and the Bottlecapps family are doing well.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Bottlecapps.
Dr. Prashant Desai: I am trained in medicine and have specialty training in Oncology, Immunology, and Rheumatology. I have spent the majority of my career in biotechnology working on new evolving products in biotechnology. I joined Bottlecapps in 2018 to help them to a capital raise and, after completing the raise, asked to take over the company and drive the vision and execution. Through this vision, we were able to create a full “360 solution” to bridge the gap between brands, distributors, and consumers. With 2 years at the helm, we have achieved over 1000% growth with over 1,000 stores in 43 states on your platform in 4 countries. Bottlecapps is the first “non-VC” backed profitable SaaS company that I am aware of. The story is similar to Elon Musk at Tesla. He came in to do a capital raise and became the face of Tesla. The same would hold true for me at Bottlecapps. Let’s hope we can replicate the success of Elon and Tesla. Solve a problem, and you will be valuable to the world.
How does Bottlecapps innovate?
Dr. Prashant Desai: We innovate through a mission to be very “consumer-centric” and adaptable to the spirits industry’s ever-changing demands. We are the first in the class company to develop a branded app, e-commerce website, marketing, and access to our exclusive marketplace BottlerRover for a flat fee of less than $15/day. The model with the delivery platforms like Drizly or Instacart have been “upcharging” the product and charging the store 10% or higher in transaction fees. In a “razor thin” margin business, this is not protecting the three-tier system. Our stores are appreciative of being able to leverage our multi-million dollar platform for this small flat fee. We currently have 7 products in our portfolio and will be the largest “data and analytics” group in the United States. We hope to utilize this data to empower our stores and brands to make more robust decisions moving forward.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Dr. Prashant Desai: We would never wish this virus on anyone or any country. Countless amazing people have passed away from this devastating virus. As someone who lost his father to cancer recently, I know the pain that these families must feel. We took the half glass full approach and have made it a mission to help our stores and brands “survive and thrive” in this environment. We lowered our fees to allow more stores onto our platform and help them with delivery through partnerships with DoorDash and Zifty. We continue to evolve our platform to include curbside and in-store pickup and delivery where permissible by law. We have some great features, including “flash sales,” no upcharging on in-store pricing, recipes, specials from brands we program with, and access to the newest products like Bud Light Crisp. We integrate directly to the point of sales, so what’s on the shelf is on the app or website. This is a clear differentiator for us versus delivery providers or other SaaS (Software as a service) companies.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Dr. Prashant Desai: When I took the helm, we were not profitable and were on our app’s free trial. I immediately worked with my team to develop a portfolio of products and a “flat fee model” that was unprecedented in spirits. Every platform today charges between 3-20% per transaction, and that is a huge loss for stores trying to protect their margins. The second challenge with this is the customer does not belong to the store but rather to the delivery provider. A Drizly customer belongs to Drizly and not to the store. They have no mechanism to engage them in stores through the “bricks and clicks” model in-store and online. Stores are waking up to this harsh reality and making a move to Bottlecapps and our flat fee model as a way to drive their e-commerce business. Another lesson we learned was resilience. It was to believe that our plan was one that was executable and different from the industry and very disruptive to a transactional model. It took time to gain traction and lots of 90 hour weeks, but we prevailed in the end.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Bottlecapps in the future?
Dr. Prashant Desai: Stress and anxiety are challenging parts of life. I have had my fair share of tragedy and struggle. It’s not what life throws at you, but how you respond is the most important aspect. We rise to challenges and seek to solve problems that ultimately help the industry we serve. I am a very optimistic, visionary, serial entrepreneur. Coming from a family of doctors and strong businessmen gave me the opportunity to learn and succeed and also to learn from my failures. I always say, “you win or you learn.” There are no failures to me unless you do not attempt to succeed. We fully intend to dominate, disrupt, and revolutionize the spirits space, very similar to what Amazon did in books and ultimately in everything. We will be the prominent leaders of e-commerce in the spirits space and have built the most robust relationships with our stores, spirits brands, and distributors. As a company, if you are easy to work with, provide a great solution, and ultimately are consumer-centric, it will all work out in your favor. This is the reason the famous rapper and serial entrepreneur Curtis Jackson (aka Fifty Cent) chose Bottlecapps to build his e-commerce app. We expect to grow exponentially in the United States and abroad and aspire to be similar to Amazon in the spirits business.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Dr. Prashant Desai: Our competitors are limited, as nobody has a full 360 solution. Delivery providers like Drizly, Minibar, and Instacart are just that. They provide delivery when they can from the stores that have inventory for a “transaction fee.” Bottlecapps builds you a branded app for your store, a branded e-commerce website, a marketing team to drive your success, and a marketplace to drive consumers too that drives sales to your sales. We place our stores at the center of what we do, and that has led us to success. Download the BottlerRover app today in the app store and shop over 1000 stores in the United States and have delivery or pick up wherever you are in your travels. This, too, while not paying additional fees for this service. Just like Amazon, we have to have price transparency and parity for the consumer. We provide that in spades where the competition does not.
Your final thoughts?
Dr. Prashant Desai: I urge you to watch the evolution of spirits and e-commerce. The laws are changing for the first time since prohibition to accommodate the challenges of COVID-19. We have become a fully remote company. In this process, we have built a “best in class” culture of family first at Bottlecapps. We want to continue to drive our brand recognition and grow exponentially in the United States, Canada, India, South Africa, and other targeted markets. Keep an eye on us. We are not leaving but here to provide a service like no other and in a manner that no e-commerce company has provided before in spirits. Download our app today, BottleRover. Sit. Stay. Drink.