Flipkart wants a bite of India’s Q-commerce growth

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March 18, 2024

Christina Moniz, Financial Express

March 18, 2024

It is not difficult to understand why e-commerce firm Flipkart wants a bite of the Q-commerce pie.

India’s quick commerce market has been growing year-on-year at 77% to reach $2.8 billion in GMV (gross merchandise value) in 2023, according to a Redseer report. In comparison, e-commerce has been growing at 14-15% year-on-year. No one would dispute that with instant deliveries of products and groceries in 10-20 minutes, quick commerce firms like the Zomato-owned Blinkit, Zepto and Swiggy Instamart have changed the face of e-commerce and retail over the past few years.

While quick commerce thrives, none of the players in this ring are profitable yet. According to Devangshu Dutta, CEO at Third Eyesight, most quick commerce firms are in an expensive market acquisition phase and are at least a year away from profitability — perhaps longer. He expects that the unit economics for these companies will improve. “Some of the quick commerce players have created a substantial consumer base, which is growing in the frequency of transactions, moving to higher order values and transacting more products with potentially better margins,” says Dutta.

Both Zepto and Blinkit expect to turn profitable in FY25, as per their public statements.

So what are the primary challenges? “Traditional large e-commerce players face obstacles in facilitating last-mile deliveries, establishing dark stores, managing supply chains effectively, and navigating fierce market competition,” says Anshul Garg, managing partner & head, Publicis Commerce India.

The other key challenge for the late entrants is that customers seldom switch platforms. This is different from the way customers shop for products like electronics on e-commerce, where they compare prices/ deals across multiple e-commerce marketplaces. Brands like Flipkart need to define their playbook by maybe exploring categories other than grocery if they are to make a dent in this market.

As things stand, quick commerce has a mere 7% of the potential market. The total addressable market is estimated at $45 billion, higher than food delivery, as per JM Financial. Blinkit leads the market with a 46% share, followed by Swiggy Instamart at 27%, and Zepto at 21%.

Growing-up pangs

Kushal Bhatnagar, associate partner at Redseer Strategy Consultants, explains that there are broadly three ways that Q-commerce firms are working towards profitability. The first is by pushing higher priced items on their platforms and bumping up higher average order values. They’re also foraying into non-grocery segments such as cosmetics and headphones.

The other lever is ensuring dark store efficiencies. “While dark stores are an added cost, most platforms have a solid understanding of the demand across micro markets and are able to extract better profitability from each dark store. So the trend is positive, even if profitability is still to be achieved,” explains Bhatnagar.

For a dark store to deliver ROI and become profitable, it needs to cross 1,200-1,300 daily orders.

Some players like Zepto are also experimenting with a nominal platform fee of Rs. 2 per order, which they sometimes increase during peak times — by up to Rs. 10 — to gain from a surge in demand. Some are also implementing 12-15% fees for orders under Rs. 500, nudging customers to spend more.

Ad revenue is another important lever driving growth for these platforms, especially as D2C brands hop on board and advertise on them to reach GenZ and millennial consumers in metros and tier-I markets. Advertising revenue is around 3% of a platform’s GMV, and it is expected to keep growing.

FMCG and F&B are the top advertising categories on quick commerce currently but that can change as platforms move into higher value categories. “Quick commerce is also venturing into unconventional categories such as electronics, mobile and large appliances. If all goes according to plan, we can anticipate a significant shift in advertising contribution, given that these categories boast higher average selling prices, prompting advertisers to adopt a slightly more aggressive stance,” says Shashank Rathore, vice-president, e-commerce at Interactive Avenues (IPG Mediabrands India).

(Published in Financial Express)

Sequoia struggles to sell Prataap Snacks

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February 29, 2024

29 February 2024, Mumbai

Prince M. Thomas, TheMorningContext

Prataap Snacks should have been an easy sell for Peak XV Partners. The venture capital firm, which till recently was known as Sequoia Capital India, is the largest shareholder in the snack maker with a 47.56% stake. It first invested in Indore-based Prataap Snacks in 2011 and has since seen the company become the sixth largest player in the industry. An exit now would give Peak XV returns that would match some of its best exits, like those from Zomato and Go Fashion.

The reality is, finding a buyer for Prataap Snacks isn’t as easy as selling a packet of “chatakedaar” rings bearing its Yellow Diamond brand. In fact, those packets of rings may be one of the reasons why the company seems to have lost some of its spice with suitors. We will come to that in a bit, but first it’s remarkable how many doors Peak XV has knocked on without any luck…

The company’s choice of products, most of them falling under the category of “western snacks”, was prudent. “When it comes to snacks, the Indian market is very diversified. Each region has its own flavour and there are local nuances,” says Devangshu Dutta, founder of consulting firm Third Eyesight. That means a regional snack, like the gathiya that is popular in Gujarat, will have fewer takers in eastern and southern states. Prataap Snacks’s products had no such problem as chips and rings were not region-specific…

Read more at: https://themorningcontext.com/business/sequoia-struggles-to-sell-prataap-snacks

Realty race in Maximum City as Tata Group, Reliance Industries keep on shopping

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February 23, 2024

Kailash Babar & Sagar Malviya, Economic Times

Mumbai, 23 February 2024

Tata Group and Reliance Industries, two of India’s largest conglomerates, are vying for premium retail real estate in Mumbai as they extend their footprints, creating rivalry in a city starved of marquee properties. From Zara and Starbucks to Westside and Titan, the Tata Group occupies nearly 25 million square feet of retail space in India. That is still no match for Reliance Industries that control three times more at 73 million sq ft for more than 100 local and global brands.

But in Mumbai, they are evenly matched, having nearly 3 million sq ft of retail space each. That is a quarter of what is considered the most prime retail real estate in the country, and both the retail giants are looking for more.

“In a modern retail environment, most visible locations contain more successful or larger brands. It just so happens that many of those brands are owned by either Reliance or the Tatas,” said Devangshu Dutta, founder of Third Eyesight, a strategy consulting firm.

“Tatas have been in retail for longer but also slower to scale up compared to Reliance which had this stated ambition of being the most dominant and put the money behind it,” he said.

In a market where demand is much higher than supply, developers and landlords seek to separate the wheat from the chaff, experts said. Ultimately, success in Mumbai’s retail real estate scene hinges on a delicate equilibrium between accommodating industry leaders and fostering a vibrant, varied shopping environment, they said. “In the competitive landscape of retail real estate in Mumbai, commercial developers and mall owners often face the strategic challenge of accommodating prominent retail brands,” said Abhishek Sharma, director, retail, at commercial real estate consultants Knight Frank India.

“These big brands, with a significant market share of 40-45% in the Indian retail sector, can easily be termed as industry giants and possess the potential to command 45-50% of space in any mall,” he said. According to Sharma, there may be perceptions of preferential treatments, but the dynamics are complex, and developers must balance the demand from these major brands with the need for a diverse tenant mix.

Tata Group entered retail in the late 1980s, initially by opening Titan watch stores and a decade later by launching department store Westside. So far, it has about 4,600 stores, including brands such as Tanishq, Starbucks, Westside, Zudio, Zara and Croma.

While Reliance Retail started in 2006, it overcompensated for its late entry by aggressively opening stores across formats. Reliance has over 18,774 stores across supermarkets, electronics, jewellery, and apparel space. It has also either partnered or acquired over 80 global brands, from Gap and Superdry to Balenciaga and Jimmy Choo. A diverse portfolio of brands across various segments through strategic partnerships and collaborations helps an entity like Reliance to leverage synergies and enhance retail presence, especially in malls, experts said.

“The array of brands with Reliance bouquet allows it to enter early into the project and set the tone and positioning of the mall,” said a retail leasing expert who requested not to be identified.

“This positively helps the mall to set its own positioning and future tenant mix. It also helps Reliance place their brands in most relevant zones within the mall. This will emerge as a clear differentiator in a city like Mumbai where brands are already jostling for space, which is the costliest in the country,” the person added.

(Published in Economic Times)

Venture Capital in Retail – What Attracts Investors to Retail Business (VIDEO)

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February 15, 2024

An insightful must-watch discussion, moderated by Devangshu Dutta (Founder, Third Eyesight), with venture capital fund managers, investors and entrepreneurs in retail on what factors attract investors to retail businesses.

The panelists included Vikram Gupta (Founder & Managing Partner, IvyCap Ventures), Amar Nagaram, (Co-Founder, Virgio), and Vikram Gawande (Vice President, Growth, Blume Ventures).

Q-comm goes beyond grocery; all set to challenge e-comm dominance?

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January 8, 2024

Yash Bhatia, Afaqs

8 January 2024

In the 10th episode of Zerodha co-founder Nikhil Kamath’s YouTube podcast series, WTF, Aadit Palicha, co-founder, Zepto, says that consumer goods are the fastest-growing category for its quick commerce business. Initially, quick commerce brands just focussed on serving impulse grocery needs, but now they have changed their way to serve regular planned purchases too.

Major players like Zepto, Blinkit, Swiggy Instamart, and BBNow are expanding their offerings in gifting, makeup, ready-to-eat, baby care, pet care, meat, poultry and more to cater to a wider range of consumer needs and preferences.

Through our interviews with brands like Bombay Shaving Company, Bevzilla and Plum, it is evident that Q-comm business contributes approximately 10-25% of online revenue for different brands.

Also, according to a report by Redseer, the Q-comm market is expected to reach almost $5.5 billion by 2025. The report highlights, that these platforms can up their game by going beyond just grocery and extend their offerings to other consumables, electronics, newspapers and more.

It shows that quick commerce players would focus on other categories to reach this milestone. But, are brands ready for it? If yes, how is their strategy different for this model?

Aditi Handa, co-founder of The Baker’s Dozen, an artisanal bakery, states, “In our category, once the customers figure out a product in the physical store, then they tend to buy again on the quick commerce platforms rather than visiting a store. It works well in our category, as there is no need to touch and feel the product.”

Baker’s Dozen makes 60-65% of its online sales on Q-comm platforms.

Devangshu Dutta, founder of Third Eyesight says that quick commerce has spread across various product categories and he believes, “It is driven more by buzz than customer needs. Unless we meet a core demand with a large consumer market, there’s no sustained road to profit.”

Deepti Karthik, fractional CMO, SuperBottoms, says, “In the diaper category, there are a lot of unplanned purchases. We target customers who’re buying other products, and eventually get trails from them.”

She points out that a lot of gifting happens in the quick commerce segment. “Gift packs can be a great solution our brand can leverage.”

She predicts that for the baby-care brand, quick commerce will contribute 3-5% of overall revenue, led by gifting as a category.

Apart from the reduced delivery time, is there a reason that customers are opting to shop on quick commerce platforms?

Handa answers that two factors work in favour of Q-comm platforms: discounts and convenience. “As these players are expanding their portfolio, customers will find more reasons to go on these apps.”

Is the quick commerce business driven by celebrations?

India is renowned for its diverse festivities. Quick commerce platforms capitalise on this by selling event-related or topical assortments. For instance, they offer flutes for Krishna Jayanti, Ganesha idols for Ganesh Chaturthi, Christmas decorations for the holiday, decorative items for Diwali, and gold and silver coins for Dhanteras.

These platforms are also curating special web and app pages for such occasions, even for regional festivals like Chauth Puja. In 2023, Blinkit curated a specific page dedicated to the wedding season.

Karthik states, “The major business of this sector is driven by consumables and FMCG products. On special occasions, e-commerce brands used to curate specific products, which Q-commerce is now doing. The market share of the other modes is now being taken by the quick commerce players on festivals. That’s why every e-commerce is looking to launch its version of Q-commerce, like Amazon Fresh by Amazon, and BBnow by Big Basket.”

Handa believes differently and states that quick commerce is not taking up the market share of any other modes. “Currently we’re buying more than what we need. Quick commerce is creating some new markets, and people are spending more money as it is easy to spend now.”

Will Q-commerce take over e-commerce?

As the country embraces digital commerce, the battle between e-commerce and Q-commerce is intensifying. While e-commerce has a well-established presence with a vast user base, Q-commerce offers unmatched speed and efficiency. As Q-commerce players foray into other categories, will they take over e-commerce?

Ritesh Ghosal, former chief of marketing at Croma believes that Q-comm will not replace e-commerce. He says that Q-commerce will only be a successful mode for urgently needed products like trimmers, headphones etc.

Handa predicts, “In our category, Q-commerce will replace e-commerce purely based on better service. The only advantage that e-commerce holds is a variety of stock keeping units (SKUs). Like, some products will have a presence in e-commerce only like English Cheddar cheese, it will not be there in Q-comm, a customer can only get it through e-commerce.”

She says that quick commerce also provides a fast way to experiment with new products.

Kartik, says e-commerce will always be at the main stage for the brand and believes Q-commerce will be an incremental business for them.

She has observed that in quick commerce if a product gets listed, it starts to sell faster and gets a quick start as compared to the e-commerce route.

Challenges

While the benefits of quick commerce are evident for customers, these players in the backend face a lot of challenges including warehousing, labour expenses, and, most importantly, the orders are low-value, therefore the margins are less.

Balasubramanian Narayanan, vice president, of Teamlease services points out that the consumer preferences and buying patterns in the quick commerce segment evolve rapidly, making data collection and analysis a crucial aspect.

“Balancing data collection with user privacy is a key challenge. The data insights can help to create personalised experiences, predict demands, and improve operational efficiency. But this can be a challenge in this mode.”

Handa says in quick commerce, the biggest challenge is the stock keeping unit (SKU) mix, SKU selection is critical.

“Brands like Amazon, and Flipkart allow a plethora of SKUs, while quick commerce just allows a limited number, due to limitation of warehouse space and delivery time. The SKU selection by the brand becomes a critical aspect.”

In the physical realm, shelf presence plays an important role in reaching customers, in the online world, optimising the online presence is crucial to get the customers’ attention. She highlights that in quick commerce, the fight is to be at the top of the search bar.

“To be at the top, the brand should generate organic sales, secondly it’s about keyword bidding. A keyword that would search customers to find the product from the brand. The brand pays quick commerce players for this.”

Ghosal also agrees with this and states, “In the Q-commerce arena, most searches are by category rather than by brand. The brands have to tick more boxes in terms of categories/searches so that customers tend to look at them.”

(With additional inputs: Ruchika Jha)

(Published in Afaqs)