Q&A: How South Africa's Bottles pivoted from pandemic disaster to success

Bottles co-founders Vincent Viviers and Enrico Ferigolli leveraged their relationship with supermarket chain Pick ‘n Pay and turned their on-demand, liquor-delivery app into a grocery app, saving their business in the process.

vincent viviers
Vincent Viviers

COVID-19 was a tale of two pandemics. While brands selling essential items cashed in on consumer need, industries offering non-essential goods and services —travel, entertainment, luxury goods — were hard hit by lockdown restrictions. For many, the difference between success and failure was all about how quickly they could pivot their offerings and adapt when the world shut down.  

Just ask Enrico Ferigolli and Vincent Viviers, the co-founders of Bottles, South Africa's first on-demand liquor delivery app. Having both worked extensively in corporate environments, the pair felt an urge to explore new opportunities by starting their own thing. And in 2016, Bottles was born. But in 2020, they faced an "existential crisis" when sales of the products that they'd built their entire business around were banned. Ferigolli and Viviers realised that they needed to make a change if they wanted to stay afloat. So they leveraged their existing relationship with Pick ‘n Pay (PnP) and transformed Bottles into a hugely successful on-demand grocery app, offering same-day delivery. And a few months later, PnP concluded an agreement to purchase the app.

In this Q&A, Viviers discusses what it took to expand their offering during the coronavirus pandemic and outlines what it means to be acquired by a large retailer like PnP.

What problem were you trying to solve or what gap were you trying to fill with Bottles?

Who doesn't want to just push a button and then have your drinks magically appear an hour later? People don't want to have to order your drinks for Friday afternoon on Tuesday. They want to order things and get them delivered straight away. This immediacy was key to what we wanted to do with Bottles. When we launched Bottles, we didn't realise that we were actually creating the first on-demand shopping app in the country. There really weren't any other quick and convenient delivery apps in the market at the time. If you look at the industry today there are so many building blocks available to build an ecommerce or on-demand business. You've got everything you need. But when we started, we were in a space that was very nascent in South Africa and we had to figure a lot of it out as we went along.

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