Manoj K, based in Bengaluru, has been ordering his essentials online, not through a popular e-commerce application, but through a WhatsApp service launched by the Bengaluru corporation in mid-April.
“I got my groceries delivered within an hour,” said Manoj, who is a regular now.
At a time when players like BigBasket have been struggling to deliver essential services during lockdown, government and neighbourhood stores have stepped up to bridge the gap. This has also led to more players entering this bandwagon to tap the growing need.
How was it possible?
Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bengaluru Corporation, launched a helpline (08061914960) to deliver essentials such as fruits, vegetables and groceries to people in April.
This was in a bid to reduce people movement and crowding in local stores. Customers can place an order through the helpline either by calling the helpline number or through WhatsApp.
For this to work, BBMP mandated all shop owners to register with them for home delivery of essentials. The delivery can either be done by the shop owner himself or through delivery partners, in which case Rs 20 will be levied. BBMP has also partnered with startups for making this seamless. These partners include Housejoy and Rapido, a bike taxi operator.
Sanchit Gaurav, founder & CEO, Housejoy, a marketplace for home solutions, said that the company had started delivery of essential services two weeks back after the government’s announcement.
The company targeted neighbourhood stores such kiranas, seafood and vegetable and fruit vendors. They also tied up delivery partners for delivery of items.
“Since there are neighbourhood stores, we are able to deliver items in 30-40 minutes. At the most, it takes 60 minutes,” he added.
The company is planning to expand this service to Chennai, Pune. Bombay and Hyderabad post lockdown.
It was not just Housejoy though. A slew of other startups such as Shiprocket, JustMyRoots, and Ninjacart also ventured into delivering essentials.
Shiprocket, a logistics aggregator, partnered with on-demand e-commerce app Dunzo to launch hyperlocal delivery for essential items such as groceries, pharmaceuticals, and food items. Currently, the service is spread across more than 1,600 pin codes in various cities such as Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Chennai and Jaipur.
Ninjacart, fresh produce supply chain company, launched ‘Harvest The Farms’ where customers can get fresh fruits and vegetables from farms and farmers directly.
"To facilitate this, the entire cost of logistics is being borne by us, and not passed on to the customer, making it a win-win situation for everyone,” said Vasudevan Chinnathambi, co-founder - Ninjacart.
Another startup, JustMyRoots, delivers seafood and meat from vendors in the market who follow the safety norms.
However these are not without challenges.Challenges
Most startups are struggling to acquire the official passes issued by the governmental authorities that allow them to move from one place to another to deliver products. Operation cost is another issue.
Goel of Shiprocket pointed out that the costs of hyperlocal deliveries tend to be higher for small parcels up to 1 kg and more economical for larger or heavier parcels. However for larger interstate deliveries and neighbourhood, most sellers want their own riders.
“We are working with our hyperlocal partners to bring better prices and services to our customers and have recently launched a 3km rate with Dunzo to make services more attractive for neighbourhood deliveries,” Goel said.
Another issue is availability. While there is demand, on-boarding of delivery personnel has become challenging during COVID-19 as many of these migrant workers have gone back to their hometowns thus increasing operation costs.