[The Turning Point] How Grofers, a unicorn in the making, was started to transform India’s unorganised grocery landscape

The Turning Point is a series of short articles that focuses on the moment when an entrepreneur hit upon their winning idea. Today, we look at Gurugram-based online grocery delivery startup Grofers.
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Grocery delivery startup Grofers, the next unicorn in the making, was founded by Albinder Dhindsa and Saurabh Kumar in December 2013. It was started to solve the on-demand pick-up and drop-off services for Indian consumers in partnership with local stores, which were struggling to solve this problem.

Interestingly, Albinder Dhindsa is an ex-Zomato executive. In the initial years of starting Grofers, he had shared with YourStory that they never planned to get into the food delivery space.

The journey

After completing his graduation from IIT Delhi, Albinder went to work in the US where he met Saurabh. The duo used to work in the transportation and logistics field and worked on quite a few projects together.

Later, Albinder left his job to get an MBA from Columbia University and then joined Zomato. Meanwhile, Saurabh was trying his hands with entrepreneurship. After graduation, he went on to work in a few corporate setups before entering the startup world with Rasilant in 2011 as the COO.

Albinder Dhindsa, Co-founder, Grofers

In 2013, Saurabh started Onenumber. The initial idea was to provide on-demand pick-up and drop service from neighbourhood shops. They started out with pharmacy shops, grocery shops, and restaurants, but quickly dropped restaurants as there was a lot of competition.

Saurabh, who was based out of Gurugram then, spoke to a lot of merchants and realised the pain points these shops had with delivery logistics.

“I was surprised to know that local pharmacies did 50-60 home deliveries in a day within three to four km radius!” says Saurabh. This became the eureka moment. Taking a cue from this, he quickly pivoted and rebranded the company as Grofers.

While Saurabh had started working on Grofers, Albinder initially joined the project part-time. After seeing the opportunity in the hyper-local space, Albinder decided to join full time in 2014 as a co-founder.

“Saurabh and I had started working on this idea in December 2013 with the objective that I will eventually join full time. I wasn’t looking at moving out of Zomato, but the opportunity in the hyper-local space was very intriguing and I definitely wanted to try and build something in the area. The entire Zomato team was very supportive and helped make the transition very smooth,” shares Albinder.

Recently, Saurabh Kumar stepped down from his operational roles at the company and said he will only be a shareholder and a board member. Now, circling back to Zomato, Albinder-run Grofers is going to anytime become a unicorn with Zomato’s investment into the company.

From e-grocer to grocery ecosystem

Grofers had a humble beginning in a shop in Sushant Lok, Gurugram, and the initial idea was to put a website for local needs. But it didn’t work.

“We have made a lot of mistakes before arriving at a viable business proposition,” says Albinder. By January 2014, the company started delivering grocery and FMCG goods for businesses in Gurugram with four delivery boys. Within 15 months, the Sequoia-funded venture scaled to 200 on-field delivery boys and 40+ people in tech, operation, and marketing units.

Over the years, the consumer app has evolved to service entire household needs. Now, the SoftBank backed e-grocer, which is focusing on private label products to drive overall sales growth, is expecting its gross merchandise value (GMV) to grow 4X to around Rs 30,000 crore by 2022.

The company logged $1 billion in GMV (total value of merchandise sold over a period) in the financial year 2020 and is on track to double it every year. The duo believes if you have a good product, users will simply find you.

Edited by Megha Reddy