Bali, Financial Express
Mumbai, 21 February 2016
Having created quite a stir at the time of their launch, hyperlocal companies are now witnessing a dampened mood. While several have folded up operations in some cities, others have downsized staff, tweaked the services they offer and even made alterations to their business models. A recent example is Grofers shutting down operations in Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Coimbatore, Kochi, Ludhiana, Mysuru, Nashik, Rajkot and Visakhapatnam.
TinyOwl last year was in the news for a poorly-handled downsizing
operation in Pune, with a dramatic hostage situation involving
its co-founder Gaurav Choudhary. PepperTap also recently shut
down operations in six cities.
Ironically, giants like Amazon have not only aggressively entered
the hyperlocal space, they are building on it. Amazon is currently
offering the service in Bengaluru, Amazon Now, after running a
pilot project, Kirana Now, in 2015.
The investor sentiment in India is also on a decline, as was
reported earlier this year. Investments by venture capitalists
have dropped from $2.12 billion (October-December 2014) to $1.15
billion (October-December 2015), according to a report by CB Insights
and KPMG International. This leaves an even shorter window of
opportunity for players to retain investor interest.
Albinder Dhindsa, co-founder, Grofers, states that differing
levels of technology literacy among the majority of merchants
and consumer adaptation to the online platform are concern areas
for the company. In 2016, the company is looking to bring over
one lakh merchants aboard and ensure that turnaround time stays
under an hour. Grofers delivers more than 35,000 orders per day
on average. In Q4 2015, the firm acquired teams of SpoonJoy and
Townrush to bring dynamic learning to the table.
For Swiggy’s co-founder Nandan Reddy, the focus is currently
to grow the market, while catering to a wide demographic of consumers.
He admits that in the early stages, the brand had trouble educating
even its partners. Furthermore, operating a delivery fleet in
an on-demand service offering sub-40 minute deliveries is a challenging
task, given that there are at least 15 points of failure in an
average order. Swiggy currently owns a delivery fleet of 3,800
delivery executives. The brand’s repeat consumers contribute
to over 80% of orders.
Debadutta Upadhyaya, co-founder, Timesaverz, says some of the
major challenges in a hyperlocal market are optimum resource utilisation
and matching locations, price points, and other specific requirements
to customer needs. Timesaverz currently has a service range spread
across 40 categories, aided by a network of over 2,500 service
partners across five metros. Its revenue model is commission based,
where 80% of earnings from consumers are shared with service partners.
Vinod Murali, MD, Innoven Capital, points out that as the hyperlocal
industry is in its nascent stages, it needs a fair amount of time
to grow. “One aspect to keep in mind is that a large sized
equity cheque does not imply that a company has achieved operational
maturity or robust business metrics, especially in this segment,”
Given the recent consolidation in this category, the survivors
have the opportunity and time to focus on improving unit economics
and demonstrate that their businesses are viable and valuable.
Devangshu Dutta, CEO, Third Eyesight, is of the opinion that
hyperlocals make the mistake of borrowing business models and
terminologies from Silicon Valley, without adequately understanding
the real context of the Indian market. “Is there an existing
or even potential demand for the service claimed to be provided?
Or are you just going to introduce an intermediary and an additional
link in the chain, with additional costs and unnecessary administration
involved?” he asks.
(Published in Financial Express)