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How on-demand delivery services are helping small businesses survive and thrive

High on tech and cost efficiency, with a keen sense to reduce the carbon footprint, these services are also bridging the gap between enterprises and customers

Written by Surbhi Gupta | New Delhi |
Updated: September 4, 2020 11:07:33 pm
Besides convenience and time saved, these apps also give people the scope to focus on other areas of their business. Riders with Zypp can be seen in the photo.

Designer Meetu Makkad had to temporarily shut down her Shahpur Jat boutique in March, when the nationwide lockdown was announced. Instead of sitting idle, she turned to cooking and started Granny’s, a home-food delivery business, in Gurugram, with her mother-in-law. Soon the word spread and they started getting enquiries from Delhi too. However, servicing them was not an option since they were personally managing deliveries.

It was then she turned to on-demand delivery services like WeFast, Pidge and Uber Connect, which picked up orders from her place and dropped them off at the customers. She is not the only one. Many small and brick-and-mortar businesses are turning to these services.

Until early this year, those who ordered from Rewati Rau, a Delhi-based home baker, who runs Bikku Bakes, had to personally pick it up from her home in Patparganj or her former workplace in Noida. But now she’s using these apps to deliver orders. “Tying up with food delivery services like Zomato or Swiggy is not feasible for home bakers like me. So these services help fill that gap. I just book the delivery and the customer bears the cost. Hence, the number of orders I can service in a day has significantly increased. People in Gurugram are also ordering now, which wasn’t the case earlier,” she says. “However, I think customers prefer to buy locally, as not everyone is comfortable paying the delivery cost when the distances are larger. Sometimes it equals the cost of the order,” she adds.

Many small and brick-and-mortar businesses are turning to these services.

Besides convenience and time saved, these apps also give people the scope to focus on other areas of their business. For Aditya Verma, a home baker in Lajpat Nagar, who has also started getting orders from Noida and Ghaziabad, “Previously, I used to personally deliver all the orders. But I deliver most of them now, and can focus more on the baking. It’s only the highly customised and designer cakes that I deliver myself as there is a possibility that they may get spoilt,” he says.

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Though Dunzo was one the first to provide on-demand delivery service in India, it has stiff competition from other companies, which are finding popularity and becoming household names. “The delivery system found its way into India in 2014-15 and the whole premise of the business was convenience. One could get food and groceries home and could go from one place to the other by calling a cab. But when people were constrained at home, the same delivery service became a necessity,” says Ratnesh Verma, founder of Pidge, a logistics start-up he founded in April 2019. It provides on-demand and last-mile delivery of couriers in Delhi-NCR.

From catering to the neighbourhood entrepreneur, the company also services those “who had never done deliveries before, and want to connect with customers directly,” says Ratnesh. In the last three months, Pigde has grown almost 10 times and has increased its workforce by seven times between March and July. It is delivering food for Andaaz by Hyatt Regency, and cloud kitchens such as Masala Monk, Food Cloud, Dhampure Sugar, Pet Sutra, and Janta Book, among others.

“Delivery services have gained momentum due to COVID-19. For companies like ours, this time is what demonetisation was for digital wallets,” says Akash Gupta, co-founder of Zypp Electric Mobility, a Gurugram-based startup. “Tech plays a big role as it decides which rider will get what orders and which routes he/she will take so that the number of deliveries can be maximised,” he says. It is similar to how cab aggregators work, in terms of booking a delivery and pricing, however, instead of a person, the rider is ferrying a courier.

In the last three months, Pigde has grown almost 10 times and has increased its workforce by seven times between March and July.

Apart from an on-demand pick and drop for the smaller businesses, the company is also providing a carbon-free alternative to companies like Swiggy, Zomato, BigBasket, Spencer, Amazon, and Apollo Pharmacy, by renting electric scooters and doing last-mile deliveries. “They have an option for becoming sustainable and eco-friendly and it also makes it more affordable as it saves about 30 per cent on every delivery,” says Gupta. Zypp is delivering close to 100,000 packets a month, and the segment is growing almost 30 to 40 per cent, he says.

Delhi-based Riya Aggarwal, 18, and Anchit Kohli, 19, do not have the investment to create a tech-enabled delivery service but that did not deter them from starting a company called Riding Rangers in May. “We thought of starting a delivery service as people weren’t willing to go out and buy things, which was affecting small businesses. So we wanted to fill this gap,” says Aggarwal. Soon they started analysing the market and cold calling companies to understand the problems they were facing. After registering the company, they advertised for delivery riders. They have given employment to 15 people in Delhi NCR, three in Bengaluru and three in Mumbai.

Using Whatsapp, Google sheets and Google maps, they plan the trips and deliveries for the day. “Most of the other companies are doing single pick-up and drops. We want to minimise effort and utilise resources by doing single pick-up and multiple drops,” says Aggarwal, who has recently graduated from high school and is preparing for college admissions. Kohli is in his second year of graduation, pursuing a bachelors in business administration from Bhartiya Vidyapeeth. “When I have to study, Anchit looks after the business and vice versa,” she says.

Apart from delivering perishable products in insulated bags, they also bought carrier bags to deliver pet cats, dogs and guinea pigs. “We even took the help of Maneka Gandhi ma’am to help us deliver food for stray dogs as they were the worst hit due to the pandemic,” she says.

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