You check out your kitchen to discover that you are falling short of some groceries required for preparing tonight’s dinner. You call your local Kirana store and the Banya notes down all the items on a piece of paper. But unfortunately, he misses out on some vital ingredients and also takes eons to deliver your order! Ultimately you will have to skip your presentation work and spend time preparing meals instead! That’s where LocalBanya.com comes in.
Mumbai-based LocalBanya is an online supermarket that has over 8,000 registered users. It serves about 200 orders per day and delivers products from 9 a.m. up to midnight. Founded by a trio of friends, Karan Mehrotra (MD), Amit Naik (CTO) and Rashi Choudhary (COO), LocalBanya.com is Mumbai’s first egrocer, mostly popular among individuals aged between 25 and 40.
We had the opportunity to interact with Rashi, who shared her comprehensive knowledge about online grocery retailing and LocalBanya. Here are the excerpts for you:
To anyone who has never come across Local Banya, how would you describe it?
LocalBanya.com is Mumbai’s first online supermarket. We are an online convenience store dedicated to YOU! Our aim is to give you access to high quality products without wasting any time or energy.
At LocalBanya.com you can expect the best prices in Mumbai on your favourite grocery items because when we sell online, we can sell stuff cheaper. Save on each product, with up to 40% savings on some items and with free home delivery – anywhere in Mumbai, you don’t need to worry about the drive, traffic, pollution or missing your favourite TV show anymore!
What motivated this startup?
I always faced trouble shopping for groceries. Every time I called our local Banya, he would end up taking the wrong order or send us something other than what we ordered. Even when supermarkets emerged, I had little motivation to get out of the house, especially during the summers and monsoons. Also, I have worked in the retail industry, it is exciting to be in an industry which is booming & wanted to start something in retail. When Karan discussed the idea of an online supermarket with me, I jumped at it. I knew exactly why it would click.
How do you differentiate from your competitors?
LocalBanya follows just ‘In Time’ delivery where we aggregate orders on the site and buy goods and deliver them on the same or next day. We have less than 1% returns. In addition to groceries, personal care, baby care, and household supplies, Local Banya also sells popular film and travel magazines. Besides groceries, Local Banya also stocks not just regular vegetables but also more “exotic” varieties such as avocado, asparagus, parsley, rocket leaves , cherry tomatoes, and Pak Choi.
We have far more focus on what a customer needs , an attractive and uncluttered web design, which makes us a very user friendly site.
Who do you see as your target audience?
It’s a little complicated. By definition, everyone who buys groceries is a potential customer, which means just about everyone who shops with the neighbourhood grocer or at a supermarket. But there are some special reasons why our customers tend to be a breed apart.
We are a boon for anyone who is too busy to go shopping. The average time to get shopping done on Localbanya is a fraction of what it would be if they were to actually go to a shop or supermarket.
For nuclear households, where all members are working, groceries can be ordered online and delivered at a convenient time, even late at night. Such households live time-pressed lifestyles and they avail our services so they can use the time they save for other quality activities (like spending time with children or going visiting people).
People who have limitations or are challenged – mothers of infants, the very elderly, people who are ill or cannot move out of the house for whatever reason, and people stuck at home with unexpected guests – there are loads of people who are unable or are unwilling to go out to shop in a city like Mumbai.
Then there are people who are looking for special stuff they find difficult to get in regular stores. Stuff like bagels, or red pepper jam, or fresh oregano, or kiwi fruit, or organic mangoes. Our catalogue has many items that are relatively uncommon in the usual outlets, and we keep adding things like that. Some people visit our site just to get surprised with new items.
We have loads of shoppers who simply want to save money. Everything on our site is at a discount. Many items are at a bargain price you would not get anywhere else.
And finally, there are those who shop with us because they like doing so. Our site is great for window shopping, it is full of choices in every product category, and once you’ve found what you want, it is childishly easy to place an order.
Has Local Banya got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
Who wouldn’t want more growth? We are always going to wish for more. We have a reason to be satisfied with the response we’ve had. The bouquets have been a little more than the brickbats. We learn from the not-so-happy feedback, and try to fix the issue as best we can. Overall, we seem to be doing well. And yes, what we have achieved so far has been better than we thought we’d achieve.
How involved are you with fundraising?
Very involved. We have gone well beyond critical mass, and are in serious talks with investors. We are in a hurry to expand and would be happy to talk to anyone looking to invest in an online retail business that already has significant traction. At 15 months, we are close to cash break-even, and have penetrated almost every nook and corner of Mumbai city.
Have you had any failures and what did you learn from them?
Like any startup, we made our fair share of mistakes. We wouldn’t want to dwell on those. And we did learn a few things. We learnt that customers must come first. Making them happy is the only thing that counts. We learnt to bring in people with wider experience and perspective to speed up the maturity of our processes. We learnt to recognize good suppliers and associates, and we now take the trouble to hold on to those we value. And finally, we learnt that nothing is worth doing unless it is done well. Excellence is what we aim for in everything – even knowing that many times it is an uphill task.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
Two things stand out. The coming of huge improvements in connectivity with 3G and 4G services and devices. The online shopping experience is about to go mobile. And the second is the expected opening up of the sector with international players coming in. We are not worried about the competition – we are more thrilled with the expansion of the market.
What more do you wish to include to take Local Banya to the next level?
We need to build our team. We are growing fast, and team building is a major challenge. We are constantly upgrading our technology – but we have to run fast just to stay in the same place. Technology is a no-compromise area – it is the foundation of our business process, and we cannot think of any kind of growth without tech playing a significant part. And we’d like to have some fat investment so we can move up quickly. We know exactly what we want to do with investment and how we can make it work most productively.
How important is the role of Social Media for success of any startup?
Let me sum it up in 3 one-liners:
It is the great equalizer that allows us to look as big as companies a thousand times larger than we are.
If being customer-centric is at the core of our strategy, what better way to listen to and engage with them – that too on a real-time basis?
For a start-up, it is the ultimate marketing rubber band. I can run activities spending just the right amount of money I can afford to, on a day-to-day basis.
Can you convince the reader to start using Local Banya in under 50 words?
We deliver. We have high standards of product and service quality. You take very little risk shopping with us – we have a no-questions-asked returns policy. You choose the time for delivery – we will be punctual 98% of the time. Plus, you’ll save quite a bit of money.
LocalBanya recently has raised an undisclosed investment as part of BCCL’S Springboard fund. Many startups aim at replicating the local kirana store online but very few tend to succeed in their endeavours. LocalBanya is in the process of expanding their markets and targeting other cities in the country. In an era of fast paced lives where almost everyone is facing time constraints, such ecommerce sites let us heave a sigh of relief!