Five months into 2016, and Flipkart’s logistics arm Ekart has spread its wings to become an independent entity. After opening up to third-party players like ShopClues and Paytm, as well as for offline commerce, the startup had recently started alternative delivery models for business-to-customer (B2C) packages. In the latest development, it is commencing customer-to-customer (C2C) courier service from next week. Piloting in its home turf, Bengaluru, Ekart Courier will provide doorstep pick-up, including package material, for customers inside the city, to be delivered across the country – in all the 3,800+ pincodes that Ekart already serves.
Amitesh Jha, Vice President, Ekart, told YourStory that the company will include eight to 10 more cities in the next two months. “Customers have been requesting us informally to provide the same service for C2C couriers for a long time. There is a latent need for this system in the market, as our customer research shows that many current players do not address the customers’ need for reliability in terms of time and convenience,” he adds.
Bringing in a new era
Amitesh believes that C2C has not grown in a way it should have. “The C2C hand-carry courier market is under the ambit of what we are trying to change,” he explains. Normally, if a package goes to the wrong address, re-routing is a problem, since the system cannot recognise what went wrong. Due to poor precision, it often takes longer to deliver. With Ekart Courier's website and m-site, users can drop the pin at the address they are in. This solves a major issue in courier pick-up, as mismatch between address and pincode troubles all courier companies.
“We are using our mapping tool to ensure that the addresses are in sync. We are also the first ones to track each item on real time in location,” says Amitesh.
For scaling up, Amitesh believes there would be no need for extra infrastructure. “But there will be more investment in technology for GPS and RFID (radio frequency identification), which are essential for any supply chain,” he adds.
The customer can choose the time slot to have the pick-up boy come over. Ekart will also provide envelopes, bubble-wrap packaging etc., free of cost. There is no condition for minimum weight, but maximum is 10 kg. The packages are shipped and tracked the same way as in Ekart. Delivery time is four days for the standard option, and two days for the prime one. Overnight delivery option will be provided in a month too.
Ekart is aiming at five to 10 percent of market share in this fiscal year.
Busy times at Ekart
A week ago, it was reported that Flipkart was building its own mapping platform based on the data from MapMyIndia, in which it had invested last year. Leveraging this effort, Ekart can identify customer addresses with more precision, which in turn will make the deliveries faster.
Supported by Qikpod’s technology, they are piloting automated lockers in tech parks, where customers can pick up packages delivered at their lockers in office buildings. For B2C deliveries, Ekart has also partnered with local kirana stores that can easily deliver more than once a day. Ekart had recently hired former McDonald's Senior Director Abhijit Upadhye as Vice President, Service, and Tata Teleservices CFO Harish Abhichandani as their CFO.
Ekart’s overall strategy is to look at transforming the supply chain by going into every channel individually. Amitesh says that this includes fulfillment services, C2C and B2C couriers, and e-commerce services, making them faster and more efficient than ever before for the consumer. He adds that the idea is to ensure that Ekart gets its own revenue, by transforming the supply chain. Serving the channels outside e-commerce and adding alternative models are also part of this effort. “Along with repeat customers, new ones are also increasing. We are focussing on customer satisfaction more than customer volume right now. So we are looking at them one by one,” Amitesh explains.