[Startup Bharat] How this online grocery delivery service in Jammu takes products from the valley across the country
The COVID-19 pandemic left no state in India untouched, and even as far and beyond as Jammu, people were forced to shop for groceries online due to the strict pandemic-led lockdowns. This, despite the low internet penetration in the region.
However, turning this into a golden opportunity was Ashish Verma, who realised his dream of being an entrepreneur in his hometown. In October 2020, just as the first wave showed signs of abating, Ashish teamed up with two of his friends and started(Incarnation Retail Pvt. Ltd.), a startup for local grocery delivery and taking indigenous products from Jammu and shipping it across the country.
“What most people buy when they visit Jammu and Kashmir are Kashmiri products. Be it a pashmina shawl, tea, or even dry fruits. But there is so much more that Jammu has to offer. People are not aware about it because there is less exposure,” says Ashish.
After completing his MBA from Central University of Jammu in 2015, Ashish moved to Gurugram to work with value retailer V-Mart Retail Ltd., and later with the Landmark Group.
How it started
Before launching the website, Ashish with his cousin and co-founder Ankush Verma --who has a background in sales, started creating outreach through Facebook and WhatsApp. “We started getting orders but they were very few at the time. We did not have a website, so they would message us, and we would share our products through WhatsApp,” recalls Ashish.
Since the duo worked on limited funds, the first 500 orders were delivered by Ankush himself, and now the startup works with two delivery partners.
“In Jammu, it is quite unusual to be a startup entrepreneur. People usually work in the government and prefer to lead very comfortable lives. And others usually migrate to cities. As for me, I really wanted to bring entrepreneurship to the city,” says Ashish.
Initially, most of the orders would come from students studying in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in the city. The number of orders increased when people were forced to order online due to the pandemic-induced lockdowns.
Credit: YourStory Design
The firm claims it earned between Rs 1-2 lakh in sales in the first month, but more than six months later, in April 2021 when the second wave was on the rise, Jammu Basket’s turnover was between Rs 10 lakhs and Rs 15 lakhs. Currently, its sales have reduced to Rs 8 lakh per month as the pandemic rush has settled down. However, Ashish claims the firm is making an average profit of 15-20 percent.
“We do not have any loans as we started with a very small inventory, which we bought using our credit cards. Once we sold that inventory, we invested the money back into the business, and that’s how we grew our business,” explains Ashish.
The firm is in the process of getting a tranche of funds from a local government-run startup incubator.
Jammu Basket’s platform sees an average of 4,000 users every month, and 500-600 orders with an average basket size of Rs 2,000- 2,500.
Due to low internet connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir, Ashish says he decided to create a website instead of an app. But as the demand grows, the firm does plan to launch an app.
“We offer same day delivery to local customers and 2-3 days for delivery orders to cities including Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore (Bengaluru),” says Ashish.
He claims the platform has a customer retention rate of 60 percent.
Products from the winter capital
Jammu Basket has also tied up with at least 20 local vendors who sell indigenous products from the state. These include Udhampur Kaladi, which is a type of cheese, Akhnoor Palangtod, the region’s famous milk cake, and dried strawberries and kiwi.
The firm works with them on a margin basis instead of commission-basis, like most online marketplaces.
Ashish says that at least 70 percent orders come from Jammu itself while the rest comes from major metro cities across the country.
Indigenous products sold on Jammu Basket. (clockwise from top left) Anardana Churan, Himalayan Mountain Garlic, Ladakhi Apricot, Spicy Semiya, Organic Honey, and Udhampur Kaladi. Credit: YourStory Design
Going forward, Jammu Basket plans to increase their SKUs for state-based products, which will drive demand from Jammu and Kashmir’s diaspora across India. The firm also wants to enter the fashion and apparel category.
Tata Digital-owned BigBasket is their biggest local competitor, besides local grocery stores, who also do doorstep delivery.
“We would like to differentiate on the online front by finding the best local products from Jammu and selling them across India. But for now, grocery delivery will be our focus,” says Ashish.
Operating in Jammu has been the biggest challenge for Jammu Basket. With internet penetration still on the lower side, and traditional habits of touching the merchandise before purchase, getting the local population to adopt online grocery shopping is a tall ask. “Some of our customers call at times saying we have added products but are not able to place orders. This is because they have added products in the cart but don’t know how to check out,” quips Ashish.
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