I started building ShopasULike, the brand before BigBasket, investing all my savings of Rs.2.5 million. Eventually, Metro decided to partner with me. I had decided that I would not carry any inventory, but would just run the front end. There would be back-end integration with Metro, which would send updates on what is in stock. The online platform was launched in April 2010.
We had limited presence — in a few residential complexes in Whitefield and other parts of the city — because of logistical challenges. Those were the days when I sweated it out, literally! I visited apartment buildings explaining how the store worked. We travelled in an eye-catching van.
I had been a grocery shopper — from Bhopal’s weekly markets, to London, Vegas and Bengaluru — and knew that unless I helped the customer avoid a trip to the store, my idea wouldn’t take off. I needed a full range of products, from chilled fruits and vegetables to staples. For mobile refrigeration, I customised a van for Rs.1 million for transport. Did it pay off? I guess. It drew oohs and aahs wherever it went.
The Indian customer is used to examining the vegetable — breaking an okra tip or squeezing the tomato gently — before buying them. To compensate for this, I knew, the presentation was critical. I came up with a plan, after a lot of thinking. The vegetables would be placed in a black tray, called punnet tray, to bring out the colours of the veggies and fruits. They would then be shrink-wrapped with a nice sticker on top. Slowly, I started gaining traction.
Meanwhile, I reached out to my former boss, Kanth Miriyala at IGATE, and he advised me to find co-founders. I reached out to the Fabmart team, who had by then set up offline grocery stores by the same name. They merged with Trinetra, which finally was acquired by More, which Amazon bought recently. That would be new battle for us to fight, an interesting one too.