Zepto founders on being role models, keeping up with competition, and being quick on the entrepreneurial journey
Whenco-founders Kaivalya Vohra and Aadit Palicha were counted as the youngest (they’re both 20!) self-made and the youngest rich individuals in India, as per the IIFL Wealth Hurun India rich list 2022, they turned out to be overnight role models for many in the country.
“It’s humbling, but honestly, it’s not something we end up thinking about every day, because there’s always a bunch of stuff going on with the business,” said Kaivalya, speaking to host Beverly White on day three of TechSparks 2022, India’s largest startup tech conference.
Quick commerce startup Zepto began operations in Mumbai in April 2021 and has witnessed stupendous growth, with a presence in 10 cities in the form of dark stores or micro warehouses—Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Delhi, Noida, Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata.
They say the best founders have real conviction in their idea, and there are no two ways about it with Kaivalya and Aadit. “The reason why we pushed so hard is that we had so much conviction about the product. We believed the product will be exciting and change the way people are buying groceries today, so rather than our personal progress, we are more concerned about how to make Zepto a bigger player in people's minds,” Kaivalya said.
On being young founders who don’t really have decades of experience to bank on, Aadit said it helps that they’re building a product that nobody has built before in an industry that's come up over the past 12 to 18 months.
“We're realising that to perfect this model and this category, we need to have a combination of both decades of experience, which our leadership team of specialists have decades of experience in supply chain and growth, marketing and finance bring in, and first principles thinking, which we bring in with our fresh perspectives.”
According to consulting firm, India’s quick commerce market is expected to witness a 15X growth by 2025, reaching a market size of close to $5.5 billion, and in this battleground, Aadit believes the winners will be people that are able to drive operating leverage on the back end.
It’s well known that quick commerce players in the industry have to cope with not just increasing competition but also criticism from all quarters that the rush to emerge winners in the market could put the safety of the delivery partners at stake.
“The reality is that our business model is built off short distances, and not fast speeds,” said Aadit, adding that their pick-up points across the country are positioned in dense population clusters, where the average distance for the delivery person is 1.7 to 1.8 kms.
On where the quick commerce industry is headed to in the next ten years, Aadit said there's potential to build a horizontal quick commerce and ecommerce company, and grocery itself is bigger than every other ecommerce category, combined.
From being teen entrepreneurs who dropped out of Stanford to leading players in the quick commerce industry, Kaivalya and Aadit have scripted quite the entrepreneurial success story.
When asked for their mantra for personal success, Kaivalya is careful to dish out advice, stating they’d be better equipped to give it in five to 10 years, but, “Keeping at it is one thing we learned very early on. Entrepreneurship is a journey where the highs are super high, and the lows are really low. There were many opportunities for both of us to say let's pack up and go back to university, and live a very comfortable life, but we’ve stuck at it.”
Aadit’s word of advice for entrepreneurs? “If you want to start building a company, build it for the right reasons.” For someone who forgot his phone charger on the way to the airport to attend this conference, and who got it delivered through his startup, this piece of advice sounds about right.