War for instant grocery delivery set to intensify with entry of Reliance’s JioMart

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March 29, 2022

Writankar Mukherjee & Sagar Malviya, Economic Times

Kolkata / Mumbai, March 28, 2022

The war for instant grocery delivery is going to intensify with Reliance Retail entering the segment with its JioMart platform. The company will start the trial in next 2-4 days in Navi Mumbai for ‘JioMart Express’ which will sell and deliver around 2,000 stock keeping units (SKUs) in a few hours, two senior industry executives aware of the plans said.

Reliance has plans to take instant grocery sales to over 200 cities and towns where JioMart is currently operational by end of next quarter and double the reach in next few months to make it India’s largest instant grocer. The company will also tap its network of kirana stores for such fulfillment, apart from its own chain of grocery stores, the executives said. It is testing a separate app for express grocery deliveries as well as integrating it into the JioMart platform.

The plans of India’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer to enter quick commerce is to further grow its e-grocery business and Reliance will compete against Tata-owned Big Basket which will launch it in April, Zomato-funded Blinkit, Swiggy’s Instamart, Walmart-owned Flipkart Quick and Zepto. Earlier this year, Reliance had led a $240 million funding round in quick commerce hyperlocal firm Dunzo owning the largest 26% stake.

“JioMart Express will utilize Dunzo in the markets where it is strong like the metros as well as its own delivery fleet. JioMart Express can be quickly scaled up since Reliance has onboarded lakhs of kiranas under its B2B programme ‘JioMart Partner’ who buys the merchandise from Reliance and sells through the JioMart platform,” an executive said.

An email sent to Reliance Retail remained unanswered till Sunday press time.

Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of consulting firm Third Eyesight, said Reliance needs to ensure that it is in the right catchment which has a high concentration of demand, low competition and keep supply centres close to it to make instant grocery service profitable. “Margin contribution is low in grocery and hence apart from these there could be a higher focus on high margin products in the assortment,” he said.

To be sure, quick commerce is not new for Reliance Retail. It has been delivering orders in less than three hours placed through Reliance Digital online or app for smaller consumer electronics such as mobile phones and laptops. “However, order volumes are going to be much more frequent in grocery, and hence it would need a robust backend and delivery fleet,” an executive said.

While the pilot in Navi Mumbai will start with 1-3 hours delivery time, Reliance will progressively reduce the delivery time to match the industry standard of 45 minutes to an hour and will also expand the range. According to researcher RedSeer, India’s quick commerce market is all set to grow 15 times by 2025 reaching a market size of close to $5.5 billion. Online shoppers in the metros have been using quick commerce for their unplanned and top-up purchases.

(Published in Economic Times)

Big bang later, hyperlocal companies losing steam

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February 21, 2016

Shinmin 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,” he notes.

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)

Hyperlocals may not have it so easy, after all

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September 8, 2015

Devina Joshi, Financial Express

Mumbai, 8 September 2015

Recently, there was news of restaurant reservation site EazyDiner expanding operations to Mumbai from the National Capital Region, having secured Series A funding worth $3 million led by existing investor DSG Consumer Partners, and Saamna Capital.

As per a PwC analyst, investors have pumped more than $150 million into companies like Grofers, TinyOwl, Swiggy, LocalOye, Spoonjoy, Zimmber and HolaChef, among others. Judging by the patronage showered upon them by customers and investors alike, it would appear that hyperlocal start-ups are all set to create the next big boom in the Indian retail sector. But is it really all that rosy? Probably not, as can be amply witnessed by acquisitions taking place in the nascent yet already overcrowded market.

Between November 2014 and February 2015, the Rocket Internet-backed Foodpanda acquired rivals TastyKhana and JustEat.in, and is rumoured to be in acquisition mode with TinyOwl. Restaurant search app Zomato, which recently got into the food ordering space, is also reportedly looking to acquire minority stakes in food-ordering firms.

While investors are attracted to hyperlocal start-ups, controlling logistics well is key to sustained growth for these businesses — all of these will definitely go through a constraint in the supply of delivery boys, for example. In India, organising fragmented labour is a challenge and, hence, a services-based hyperlocal needs to figure out the mechanics of human capital even more than a traditional, product-based e-commerce firm.

For services, another challenge is customer stickiness. If a user uses an app to obtain the services of a plumber, for example, he may not go through the app to contact the plumber next time if his services are found satisfactory. Discounting can induce trials, but just like in any other business, prove fatal in the long run. Like what led to the end of HomeJoy in the US — excessive discounts to dissuade direct contact between servicemen and customers.

Even for product-based start-ups, maintaining data quality is a big hurdle as stock and prices may not be updated by retailers in real time, making it difficult to track offline sales.

Since the game is hyperlocal, you need to be physically present in the city to bring retailers aboard. For that, you need a city team. Other challenges include retailer verification and assessment, given that hyperlocals deal with small city retailers.

Stickiness is needed on both sides, and each locality will certainly evolve into having a market leader and a follower, with other players falling far behind. “So the critical success factor for a hyperlocal is being able to rapidly create a viable model in each location it targets, and then—to build overall scale and continued attractiveness for investors—quickly move on to replicate the model in another location, and then another,” says retail consultant Devangshu Dutta of Third Eyesight. As they do that, they will become potential acquisition targets for larger ecommerce companies, which could use acquisition to not only take out potential competition but also to imbibe the learning and capabilities needed to deal with microcosms of consumer demand.

(Published in Financial Express.)