Over the phone, entrepreneur R K Venkatesan’s enthusiasm is palpable. As he answers my questions, he walks around his office, hurriedly checking on his employees and going through the orders of the day. Venkatesan is a force to reckon with. He has taken up the formidable task of selling vegetables online with Veggi Bazaar, one of India’s first online vegetable and fruit stores. “I have a million things to do in a day but I am loving it,” he says. Based in Chennai, Veggi Bazaar is more than just an online grocery store. It also offers services like washing, peeling, chopping and slicing vegetables and fruits; value addition services like nutritional vegetable packages as suggested by their in-house nutritionist, and of course, the promise that your order will be delivered the very next day.After working with HP for 11 years, he quit his job and founded Veggi Bazaar in 2009. “While working, my wife and I were always hard pressed for time; buying vegetables and fruits from the local grocery store seemed to be an impossible daily task. It was then that we came up with idea of an online grocery store,” he remembers. But it wasn’t easy, especially at a time when similar ventures had shut shop during that time. “Vegetables are a difficult commodity to sell online. Unlike apparel, books or gadgets, vegetables and fruits do not have a long shelf life. Moreover delivering them fresh and on time is imperative. One rotten product and you lose a customer. We can’t afford to take chances and therefore quality control is a priority for a start up like Veggi Bazaar,” says Venkatesan.
Venkatesan was living his entrepreneurial dream but knew what lied ahead for him. “I knew that there was a market for such services and we were ready to put in hard work to make it work,” he says. With an initial investment of Rs 40 lakhs, Venkatesan set up Veggi Bazaar and the risk paid off. “Today, we are valued at Rs 2 crores; have sold vegetables to more than 12,500 people and we have more than 9000 regular customers, which include working individuals, senior citizens and homemakers. What is also interesting is that we have a lot of NRI clients who order vegetables for their parents residing in Chennai,” he shares.
Venkatesan’s day begins really early. After receiving their orders, he collates all the information and contacts his vendors to be ready with the produce. The vegetables reach his office in the morning and while his fleet of two-wheelers and auto rickshaws are on standby, the products are checked for quality, cleaned, chopped, sliced or peeled (if asked by the customer), packaged and delivered to the customer between 3 to 9 pm.
Veggi Bazaar does not operate on a stock in and sell model. Orders placed with the vendors are in accordance to the orders placed by end consumers. And it does not end there. “At any point, any of my customers can switch and start buying groceries from their local store or any other popular retail chain. So in order to retain them, we need to continuously innovate.” he explains. Therefore Veggi Bazaar offers kids packages, vitamin packages, pregnancy combo packages and a lot more. Our products are sourced from varied farms in and around Chennai. We also offer fresh seasonal produce like non-carbide mangoes from Ratnagiri and dry fruits during festivals. The packaging material Venkatesan uses is imported from US. “It helps keep the products fresh during the transit period, right from our point of delivery to its destination,” remarks Venkatesan.
When it comes to pricing, although Veggi Bazaar’s products are priced slightly higher than market rates, “it is worth the price as we ensure that the groceries delivered to your doorstep are clean and fresh,” adds Venkatesan.
He is happy with the response his start up has generated and is planning to expand soon. “In the next two months, we want to have a presence in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Coimbatore and we will plan to expand to other parts of the country in six months,” he says positively.
So for all those looking for fresh zucchini or some exotic mushrooms, Veggi Bazaar is just a click away!