eBaajaar is revolutionising the lives of local fruit and vegetable vendors whose livelihoods are at significant risk from rising online competition.
Twenty-two-year-old Akshay Jain, an MBA from Coventry University, England was troubled when, on his return to Mumbai, family friends told him about the plight of local vegetable vendors. While Vijay Tripathi complained of how difficult it was to buy fresh fruits and veggies, his daughter, a doctor, revealed that with people purchasing vegetables online or at supermarkets, small vendors were left with no money to afford medical treatment.
With two years of research revealing more about their deplorable state, Akshay realised that levelling the playing field would involve bringing technology and its wonders to these vendors. With this very thought, an investment from Vijay, and his own savings, Akshay launched the eBaajaar application and startup in May 2017.
Motivating vendors to join hands with eBaajaar was not an easy task, says Akshay. Although his initial thought was that vendors would face challenges in dealing with a mobile app or eBaajaar may have to purchase smartphones for them, he was surprised that about 80 percent of them had their own smartphones with an internet connection. The only drawback was that to them, the internet was about nothing more than Facebook or WhatsApp jokes.
“Most vendors were not well-versed with the smartphone technology and weren't comfortable with the English language. So we developed our app in Hindi, Marathi, and English with images and began convincing them about better utilisation of the internet.”
Throwing in other benefits, every registered eBaajaar vendor is provided with health and pension policies at a nominal amount to make the model viable and increase social security. In addition, vendors are free to pick their area for service, can control prices by themselves, are not charged a joining fee, and with just a 2MB download are given the power to compete with established players.
“In the name of user convenience, we see other players rob small vendors’ business. While our PM speaks of financial inclusion and Digital India, how can you miss out on the more than five million vendors operating in the fruit/vegetable business? This is the chasm our social enterprise wishes to fill,” says a determined Akshay.
Although the India Food Report (2015) states that food preferences are very localised and differ by socio-economic strata, ethnicity, and the age profile of the residents of a given catchment, local stores and online markets tend to go for a one-size-fits-all approach. eBaajaar, on the other hand, caters to each area differently and locally, with their own vendors.
Not just this, the positives for the customers are just as many as for the vendors. While other hyperlocal/online platforms require customers to place an order a minimum of 24 hours in advance or pay a fee for same-day delivery, eBaajaar provides instant delivery at zero cost, has no minimum order value, and offers competitive prices from various nearby vendors on a real-time basis. You not only have the option of comparing prices but also have the power to bargain with your vendor and bag an even better price.
The level of convenience only gets higher as customers are given the option of immediate replacement if a fruit or veggie is rotten, a feature missing in other delivery systems. Moreover, products sold by small vendors are most likely to be fresh as compared to the frozen vegetables found in supermarkets.
Also, every time users buy fresh vegetables and fruits from the app, they are not only saving time but also directly supporting small vendors/farmers in improving their lifestyles, feeding their families, and educating their children. eBaajaar also engages users with a number of social causes. Says Akshay, “During this Joy of Giving Week we ran a campaign to support midday meals for every order placed during that week and the response was amazing.”
“We are working on improving our technology to reduce human dependency. Most hyperlocal or other models working on veggies shut down because of high cost on inventory and logistics. At eBaajaar we have no logistics and inventory costs or issues, making us a complete aggregator-based model with a social impact,” explains Akshay.
This has come as a major advantage. He adds, “Since we have no inventory, our produce is fresh and as an aggregator, we are able to fulfil every location’s demand at their price, with zero wastage that comes with prior storage and stocking up.”
With benefits all around, eBaajaar, which started with catering to just two locations, in six months has reached the capacity of serving all of Mumbai. With a team of five, they have added over 800 vendors on the app, have over 10,000 downloads, and have undertaken over 2,000 orders.
Looking to the future, Akshay concludes, “We believe there is a huge opportunity in each and every city and are looking to cater to them as well. We are currently seeking user feedback and creating a model that offers 20 percent lower prices compared to the others. We are also looking for seed funding of $1 million to make our model viable and break even in two years. Come join us, shop local, and support local!”