This green startup went from being a vegan festival to an online grocery store that uses EVs for delivery
On their website, Bengaluru-based online grocery store wildermart proclaims, “We are same same but different.”
Founded by friends Swaroop Mohan and Shweta Thakur,claims it is not just your regular online grocers - but a brand that cares about what we consume, how we consume, where it comes from, and who gets affected in the process.
Initially started as Wilderfest in May 2018, a food festival of vegan and sustainable products at VR Bengaluru mall, its resounding success saw the festival also being held at Delhi in December 2018.
“Given the success, we took the event to Delhi with Select City Mall for another fabulous event. As we did more events, we realised that just one pop up won't create any impact. The problem of easy availability and accessibility still wasn’t getting solved, and we needed something more permanent. We toyed with the idea of a store, but Covid happened and then we saw how customer demand went online. This is how the Wildermart business model came into existence,” says Shweta.
“When we were doing Wilderfest, we met Maneka Gandhi, who was then heading the Ministry of Women and Child Development. The department was organising their annual women’s organic mela in Delhi at the same time, and she asked us to set up 20 vegan stalls there. Later, when we requested her if she would launch our online business, she was more than happy to do so,” Swaroop says.
And thus, animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi launched vegan and sustainable products brand Wildermart on Earth Day on April 22, 2021.
Vocal for local
Explaining how they work, Shweta says, “We have a website and an Android app, both based on Shopify through which our customers place their orders.”
The startup claims to offer over 2000+ products across 30+ categories, with products ranging from certified organic fruits and vegetables to clean label artisanal packaged foods and chemical free personal and home care products.
“Nearly 80 percent of our products are sourced locally from farmers and makers. Staples like fruits and vegetables are sourced from certified organic farmer producer organisations (FPOs) in Karnataka. Other products like handmade, artisanal, and clean labels are from local producers in the city. And all our plant-based products come from across the country,” Swaroop explains.
Being a vegan brand, Wildermart houses a host of plant-based dairy (cashew milk, ghee, tofu, icecream, etc) and meat alternatives (burger patties, jackfruit, keema, etc).
“We are very environmentally conscious. Our products are delivered with minimal plastic, and we have a 70 percent plastic free product portfolio,” adds Shweta.
“We also make sure deliveries are done using electric vehicles (EVs). We have EVs on lease and we handle the delivery in-house. We deliver on the same day if the order is placed before a cut-off time, and the next day if it is posted that time,” she says.
As of now, the startup has only one warehouse, in Cheemasandra, Bengaluru.
“Currently, we have about 80 local brands onboard which includes names like Jus Amazin, Goodmylk, Black Baza, Krumb Kraft, Imagine Foods, Blue Tribe and Health on Plants, among others,” Swaroop says.
In the one year since its inception, the startup claims to be the preferred brand for 1300+ consumers, with a repeat consumer rate of around 35 percent. On their initial marketing initiatives, Shweta says, “We spent on performance marketing in the first three months of launch, and acquired early customers very successfully. Social media, emailers, calling customers, etc also supplemented all our efforts,” he adds.
What’s so wild about Wildermart?
“Our USP is that we are a healthy and sustainable grocery store. We provide customers with information, curation, and a store front - thereby making it easier for them to make conscious choices,” says Shweta.
According to her, the grocery retail space in India is extremely competitive, “but we are clear on occupying a niche within that.”
“We are very inspired by Whole Foods as a brand internationally. In India, while the big players are catering to this as a category, smaller brands are niche and siloed in their approach. We are one of the few who have a holistic view on both health and sustainability. We are strengthening our supply chain right now, since that will give us an advantage over our competition,” Swaroop reveals.
Swaroop previously ran a corporate events business in the UAE. After he quit his corporate life, he became a serial entrepreneur investing in diverse businesses across industries.
Consolidating his portfolio of businesses in the sustainability space, Swaroop is currently focused towards researching this emerging industry, understanding supply chain and other challenges in the online grocery business model.
Shweta began her career as a corporate banker at HSBC, Mumbai handling roles ranging from strategy, data analytics to sales and M&A. After a successful banking stint, she moved to Bengaluru and co-founded a communication agency, helming it as a creative director for nine years.
With a shared vision for a cleaner planet and with a passion to build awareness on sustainable solutions, the duo decided to come together and start Wildermart using their own funds.
Wildermart currently has a team of 10 members including executive and warehouse staff.
Funding and monetisation
“We started with an initial capital of about Rs 85 lakh from our own pockets before raising additional funds. Although we did not spend on marketing in the first year of product market fit (PMF), we still acquired customers and achieved a gross merchandise value (GMV) of Rs 35 lakh,” Shweta tells.
Recently, the startup raised $320,000 in angel funding from investors like Sairee Chahal - Founder, Sheroes; Anand Rangaswamy, ex-CEO, Latam and UK Godrej Consumer Products Ltd; Sreenivasan Ramki, Gangs T Gangadhar, Sandeep Komaravelly, Anuroop Krishnan, Chetna Soni, Sunainika Singh, Aditya Krishna, Shivanandan Pare, Rohit Bhojaraj, Raj Narayan, Vikram Dani, Sid N, Abhinav Mathur, Shivram Anantharaman, Ashish Dutt and Kedar Gavane.
“Our income is our margin. In our first year of operation, we were primarily doing a product market fit. The problem statement that we went out to the market to solve has been validated by the customers. There has been an overwhelming response to the solution. We have focused on getting the value proposition sharpened in the first year and are ready to acquire a strong market share now,” Swaroop asserts.
What lies ahead?
A recent report by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Deloitte states that the total addressable market (TAM) for grant foods, organic, and vegan is about $11 billion in India.
“We hope to hit two percent of this TAM in the next five years,” Shweta says.
“Supply chain is the biggest challenge for us. Our vendors are small, without organised processes and supply chains. All our products have a relatively shorter shelf life making inventory management quite complex. The EVs also come with their own set of challenges for the delivery side, as EV tech is still evolving. We had a tough time looking for commercial vehicles which gave a decent range of driving,” she comments.
“But, we are overcoming the challenges with better planning and efficiency optimisation. We have a very strong partner in MoEVing - our EV leasing partner. There's a lot happening on the model and tech aspect - like battery swap, higher range, etc. We can't wait to keep upgrading. This space is going to be super fun for the next few years,” Swaroop adds.
Wildermart is also one of the startups under the Niti Ayog Shoonya program - a customer awareness campaign around zero emissions last mile delivery. “We are there with the biggies like Dunzo, Flipkart, Big Basket, etc and feel really proud that we have started on the right note with a 100 percent emission-free delivery,” Shweta says.
At the moment, the startup operates only in Bengaluru, but has plans to expand to six other cities including Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad in the next three years.
Companies like Organic World, Organic Mandya, Nature's Basket, Pure & Sure are other renowned names in the space. But Wildermart also has stiff competition from local organic grocery stores like Grameena Angadi and more, apart from other niche brands like OneGreen, Vegandukan etc.
“Given our combined experience and expertise, we particularly love marketing and sales. As for operational challenges, we have our team of very experienced advisors who help us navigate through it,” Swaroop concludes.
Edited by Anju Narayanan