It is the final frontier in India’s ongoing e-commerce revolution – delivering the daily bread.
E-commerce in India, as elsewhere, started with easily ‘digitizable’ goods such as plane tickets, about six years ago. Over the last two years, it has expanded to involve nearly every category of branded goods such as watches, electronics, books, clothes and jewellery.
However, there was always one category left out – grocery. Though it is the biggest chunk of traditional retail, the supply of daily requirements of commodities — food items, toiletries and other ‘exhaustibles’ — was a no-go for vendors.
Even as more than a dozen big brands entered the e-retail market with me-too services in the last two years, not one focused on, or even offered, daily groceries as part of their service. Flipkart, Letsbuy, Jabong, Snapdeal.. all were quite comfortable offering durables, home appliances, mobiles, clothes and even furniture, but would not deliver your daily bread, or atta, or veggies.
The reason, of course, was not far to seek. Unlike the other items, which could be delivered through courier services, items of daily consumption had to be hand-delivered. While you can wait for three days to get hold of that new mobile phone you ordered online at a discount, you would not want to wait for three days to get delivery of that toilet soap.
In addition, order sizes could be very low — as low as Rs 50. According to a recent study by Zinnov Consulting, e-retailers spend an average of Rs 210 on each order as delivery, packaging and payment processing charges. As such, they start making a profit only if the order size is in excess of Rs 1500 or about there.
As a result, most e-retailers have given grocery items the miss — till now.
A start-up company, zopnow.com, is trying to address the untapped market. Focused only on East and South Bangalore, the company promises a within-three-hour delivery. The “online hypermarket” offers nearly every household requirement and has sections such as ‘kitchen, bedroom, bathroom’ etc..
Going by the description, delivery is through sorties every three hours. While the portal offers discounts, they are not as substantial as you would find at major brick-and-mortal hyper markets, at least on many items. Nevertheless, the ease of shopping may be what does it for the company. Moreover, the prices are, on the whole, slightly cheaper than those offered by mom-and-pop shops in Bangalore.
The team is led by Mukesh Singh and Bal Krishn Birla, both computer science graduates from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT-K).
Mukesh has worked in a startup in Bay Area, eGain, as an early employee, solving technical problems for the internet space and helped setup the India engineering center for eGain at Pune.
He also worked for five years at Amazon on search and payments domain. Mukesh’s last job was in running engineering at MakeMyTrip till July 2011.
Bal Birla worked for almost 9 years at Infosys and later helped build technology that powers the 3D secure authentication for payments, commonly known as ‘Verified by Visa’. He too worked at Amazon India and later as the CTO for Asklaila. Birla also runs a chain of restaurant, Potluck.