Delivery race among grocery startups in India presents road safety risks According to Reuters


© Reuters. A delivery person leaves the dark shop of Blinkit sponsored by SoftBank, an Indian company offering 10-minute grocery delivery, in New Delhi, India, January 19, 2022. File photo. January 19, 2022. REUTERS / Anushree Fadnavis


By Aditya Kalra and Abhirup Roy

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Grocery startups in India are wooing tech-savvy customers with promises of 10-minute delivery, sparking a boom in “fast commerce,” but increasing the odds. road safety concerns as cyclists scramble to meet tight deadlines.

Competition is already fierce in India’s $600 billion grocery retail industry, with the likes of Amazon (NASDAQ:), Walmart’s Flipkart (NYSE:) and Billionaire’s Reliance Indian rich Mukesh Ambani.

Now, SoftBank-backed Blinkit and its rival Zepto are racing to hire staff and open stores in a bid to capture market share by offering the convenience of 10-minute delivery, far less than the number of hours or days lost by competitors.

Their mission: pack groceries within minutes at so-called dark stores, or small warehouses in densely populated residential buildings, and send cyclists to nearby locations for about seven minutes for backup.

“It’s a threat to the bigger players,” Ashwin Mehta, lead IT analyst at India’s Ambit Capital, told Reuters. “If people get used to 10 minutes, companies that offer 24-hour delivery will be forced to reduce their timetables.”

As operations grow, research firm RedSeer says India’s fast-commerce sector, worth $300 million last year, will grow 10 to 15 times to reach $5 billion by 2025.

Blinkit and Zepto, started by two 19-year-old Stanford dropouts, have captured consumer interest, satisfying cravings and impulse purchases, as well as an urgent need for supplies. daily.

“It’s been so convenient, it’s changed the lifestyle,” says Sharmistha Lahiri, who now switches to Blinkit, to fill the void when ingredients suddenly run low in her kitchen, from tomatoes to tomatoes. soup to chocolate icing for a cake.

The 75-year-old, who lives in the city of Gurugram near the capital New Delhi, is an avid user of Amazon and Indian conglomerate Tata’s online grocery store BigBasket, but Blinkit reacted quickly in situations so.

The unsurpassed convenience of speedy delivery is evident in Europe and the United States, where companies like Turkey’s Getir and Germany’s Gorillas are expanding rapidly, but the roads are prone to accidents. India’s crisis made trade quickly a dangerous business.

A former road secretary, Vijay Chhibber said: “Ten minutes is very clear. “If there was a regulator (road safety), they would say that this cannot be the sole selling point of the company.”

Blinkit and Zepto did not respond to queries from Reuters.


Even in cities, most roads are filled with potholes, while cattle or other animals straying into the flow of traffic is a constant challenge for car drivers, who frequently violate the basic rules.

Last year, the World Bank said one person dies on its roads every four minutes. Collisions kill about 150,000 people each year.

All 13 drivers for Blinkit and Zepto that Reuters interviewed in the key cities of Mumbai, New Delhi and Gurugram said they face pressure to meet delivery deadlines, which often lead to speeding degree, for fear of being reprimanded by the store manager.

“We had five to six minutes and I felt stressed and scared for my life,” said one Blinkit driver, who asked not to be named.

In August, Blinkit’s chief executive said on Twitter (NYSE:) that riders are not penalized and can deliver “at their own pace and rhythm”, as the dark shops are always close to the shops. destination.

The delivery people disagree. In the rush, many of them told Reuters, they mark orders as delivered even before they reach their destination.

And if customers complain about the practice, they will face a fine of 300 Indian rupees ($4.03). Screenshot of the Blinkit app provided by a driver showing the term, MDND or “Marked Delivered, Not Delivered” used to designate such items.

Frustration was also evident in the WhatsApp chats of a group of Blinkit riders in Mumbai as reviewed by Reuters.

“Delivery for 10 minutes is prohibited,” said one user, after photos were posted of a driver believed to have been injured in a rush.

The concerns reflect the dark side of India’s booming gig economy, in which workers often say they feel left out or face harsh working conditions.


Blinkit calls its service “indistinguishable from magic” and says it wants to be a $100 billion business.

Zepto has been valued at $570 million and has aimed to become a $20 billion company, already backed by investors like US-based Glade Brook Capital.

The instant delivery market is a $50 billion opportunity, Reliance, India’s largest offline retailer, said this month, as it invested in Dunzo, another Indian startup. operates a delivery service in 19 minutes.

However, unlike most foreign companies that charge 2 to 3 US dollars for delivery, the delivery of Indian startups is mostly free in a country with a population of 1, 4 billion potential customers.

TN Hari, head of human resources at online grocery store BigBasket, which ships most orders within five hours, said: “With free shipping, business is hard to come by. exam.

“And with a viable delivery fee, the market size is likely to be small.”

Right now, the Indians are trapped.

One Blinkit investor said on Twitter that New Year’s Eve deliveries included over 43,000 cans of carbonated drinks, adding, “33,440 condoms were ordered on @letsblinkit today. Yes. who ordered 80 condoms in one go.”

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