Imagine a day in which everything goes wrong. You wake up in the morning and realise you are out of shaving cream. There are no eggs in the fridge. Your car has a flat tyre so you have to hail a cab and when you finally reach office, you only have the prospect of lunch at your canteen—dry chapattis and watery dal—to look forward to. You get back home disillusioned when you realise that your uncle is coming to visit you and you have to pick him up from the airport. You curse the drudgery of life but it is this same drudgery that a host of startups is basing their profit model upon. So today, if you are out of eggs, order them from Grofers or Big Basket. If your car has a flat tyre, just register with Zoom, India’s only car rental company focusing on self-drive. Dry chapattis need no longer mar your happiness. Order your meal from Holachef or Tiny Owl. And if you feel you’re not up to picking up your uncle, outsource the service to GetMyPeon or Timesaverz.
Ask yourself this: what do you feel like having right now? If there is no startup catering to that need, you might have just hit upon a business idea. In today’s changing urban lifestyle, the greatest raw material needed to cobble together a living is not money or love; it is time. You want to prioritise what is important to you and for that, the unavoidable flotsam—unpaid bills, flat tyres and empty fridge compartments—needs to be taken care of. In the US, startups have ushered in a culture of sharing—you don’t buy a bucket that you will seldom use. You log on to Streetbank, a website that allows people to lend goods to their neighbours. In India, however, startups are ushering in a culture of outsourcing, be it buying grocery, running errands or ordering meals.
Saurabh Saxena, co-founder of Holachef, cites media reports that peg the worth of Indian food and beverages industry at approximately Rs3.2 lakh crore. The delivery industry alone is worth approximately Rs6,400 crore and is growing at 40 per cent annually. Catering to this need, food delivery startups like Yumist, Holachef and iTiffin, headquartered in Gurgaon, Mumbai and Bengaluru respectively, have grown exponentially in the last two years. Investors, too, are betting on them, the reason why Tiny Owl, Food Panda and JustEat have raised more than Rs120 crore. These startups score over the e-commerce sales of single-brand eateries like Dominos and Pizza Hut by offering faster service, better packaging, tastier and healthier food and a wider choice. “Since the competition is so high, we need to innovate constantly not just in terms of food but also in service, packaging and environmental friendliness,” says Saxena.
Startups are innovating even in their business models. So Eatonomist offers nutritional advice for people following a diet plan and Holachef connects consumers with chefs registered on its platform. As Saxena says, Holachef is not about a brand or a kitchen; it is always about the chef. On an average, a Holachef meal will cost Rs310. It currently functions only in Mumbai.
In India, grocery delivery is a segment that is gradually gaining traction. While startups like Big Basket and Local Banya have adopted an inventory model, the popular trend in this segment is going hyperlocal, as this is less capital intensive and does not require facilities for preservation. “Just focusing on delivery also allows us to leverage the expertise of offline stores,” says Milind Sharma, co-founder of Gurgaon-based hyperlocal grocery delivery startup Peppertap founded in 2014.
Providing grocery delivery services is becoming popular, he says, because going to a supermarket to buy groceries is a cumbersome process and groceries are something you need to buy frequently. Peppertap gets 600 to 700 orders every day and recently received Series A funding of approximately Rs64 crore from SAIF Partners and Sequoia Capital. “The biggest challenge in this segment is building the trust of the consumers,” says Sharma. “They need to be convinced about the quality and freshness of the products.” He says Peppertap has taken a number of measures to ensure this including giving bi-weekly training to each of its delivery boys.
If Peppertap focuses exclusively on grocery, Grofers, another Delhi-based hyperlocal delivery startup, also delivers electronics (like chargers and extension cords) at some places and is looking to add pharmacy, hardware and appliances over the next few months. Local merchants can list on the app so that customers can select products from the merchant or store of their choice. Grofers wants to essentially focus on delivery of anything for which you have to step out. “So, while online shopping is eating up the prospects of local stores, we are giving them the opportunity to go online and be in tune with the times,” says co-founder Albinder Dhindsa. There are close to 600 stores listed on the Grofers app. The company processes more than 2,000 orders every day through a team of 300 delivery executives.
The last two years have seen the mushrooming of errand service startups like GetMyPeon, Taskbob, Timesaverz and LocalOye. “Whether you want to pick up somebody from the airport, deliver flowers or birthday cakes, stand in queues or get paperwork done, we offer reliable, affordable and guaranteed service,” says Bharat Ahirwar, founder of GetMyPeon, currently operational in Mumbai and Vashi. And why would we outsource errands to a startup? “Five years ago, employment was cheap,” he says. “Today, things are getting so expensive. It is difficult even to get a full-time maid.” Its USP? Give us the menial work so that you can focus on the important things like work and spending time with family.
Mumbai-based LocalOye, while essentially providing the same services, has a different business model as it offers a marketplace for 'merchants', be it plumbers, electricians, yoga instructors or private tutors, in your locality. “We want to be the Amazon for services in India,” says co-founder Aditya Rao. Right now, there are 4,000 'merchants' listed on its app providing services across 334 categories.
“The local services market is worth more than Rs6 lakh crore globally,” says Abhiraj Bhal, co-founder of Delhi-based Urban Clap, a similar platform which plans to offer the service of professionals like nannies, cooks, maids and babysitters. “In India, the market has not seen any innovation in the last couple of years. So there is immense potential for growth in this segment.”
Startups offering comfort and convenience are proliferating not just in the general segment but even in niche areas like health. A number of startups like India Home Health Care, Portea and Pathdoor are focusing on bringing health care home. The home health care market in India is estimated to be around Rs12,700 crore. Pathdoor, a Bengaluru-based startup founded in 2013, for example, offers free home test sample collection. Patients can get tests ranging from complete blood count and urinalysis to HIV screening done in the comforts of their home. Its technicians come to your home, collect the test samples and mail you the results. Only if the tests cost less than Rs500 do the patients have to pay the transport costs—Rs6 per kilometre— from the lab to the patient’s house. “Patients can also log into our website for locating the nearest lab, check their accreditation status and make price comparisons,” says Niharika Goel, co-founder. Pathdoor gets approximately 30 bookings per day and earns between Rs3,000 and Rs4,000. The segment is poised to grow to approximately Rs1.08 lakh crore by 2021.
We are the generation that is in a transition period. Our children might not know what it is like to stand in queues to buy movie tickets, go to supermarkets to buy grocery and malls to shop or subscribe to newspapers to read the news. In the future, people may not go out to buy goods or services. They will expect them to be brought to them. After all, home is where the app is.
With Vandana and Anjuly Mathai