With $60 million in initial funding, 19-year-old Stanford dropouts Aadit Palicha and Kaivalya Vohra are turning heads in India’s flourishing start-up ecosystem with their 10-minutes delivery app named Zepto. In an exclusive conversation with NDTV, the promising young duo discusses their journey so far.
The start-up is worth between $200 million and $300 million and backers include Y Combinator, Glade Brook Capital, as well as angel investors Lachy Groom and Neeraj Arora, according to the firm.
The founders, who are based in Mumbai, say that all orders have a customised Expected Time of Arrival (ETA) that may even be six or seven minutes depending on the location and resource availability. Most of their orders reach within the ETA, the founders claim. What about the orders that don’t reach on time? “We reconcile with customers by offering discounts or other incentives,” they say. Currently, all deliveries from the app are free of charge.
Customers can order a variety of items including fruits, vegetables, meat, chocolate, soft drinks, medicines, etc. from 7 am to 2 am.
Mr Palicha and Mr Vohra have been friends since primary school; they played a lot of table tennis together. Eventually, both of them got into Stanford University’s prestigious computer science engineering program. “Never imagined we would reach where we are now,” they say.
It took the founders roughly three months of experimentation to perfect the model. The idea came along when they were experimenting with grocery delivery. “Initially, we wanted to do quick delivery, we imagined it to be 45 minutes. Then we spoke to our customers and specifically analysed how they were reacting. Customers who were consistently getting deliveries in the 10-15 minutes bracket reacted much better and were spending much more on the platform, that’s when we tried to understand how to get this experience done for all of our customers,” Mr Palicha explains.
Mr Vohra says that the idea came to them after a lot of iterations. He believes that grocery delivery has been an exciting space in India. “This model is something that’s done pretty well globally,” he adds. On his pitch to convince investors, he says they just asked investors to order something themselves once and the experience was enough to convince everyone that this was going to be “the next big thing”. They say they do the same when looking for potential hires.
The grocery delivery market in India already has some big players including SoftBank Group Corp.-backed Grofers, Google-backed Dunzo and Swiggy, and other start-ups, but the duo feel confident of their product and claim they don’t see anyone else as rivals. “Right now we are just building out an experience and the underlying technological infrastructure that we feel is better than anything that’s out there and that’s what has been fueling our growth, that’s why our customers love us so much,” Mr Palicha says. They claim their competition is with themselves, and they set their own benchmarks.