Mayank Jain
Guest Article

Not a fad: 10-minute delivery is more innovative than we think

Our guest author makes the case for how quick grocery delivery is a paradigm shift that makes us rethink of how fast something can/should be.

We've all heard the experts. They point out the supposed unviability of grocery startups and their severe lack of profits. However, the startups are in no mood to give up. They continue to innovate and are hoping to crack the code to profitability and positive unit economics. The latest bid is the promise of superfast delivery. Store to home in 10 minutes or less. Blimey!

Even with all the attention, the 10-minute delivery model is being characterised as a fad, money-guzzler and a desperate solution in search of a problem. It is anything but.

Indistinguishable from magic

In fact, if you look closely enough, a 10-minute delivery is indistinguishable from magic. It reminds me of dial-up Internet and how a speed of 10 Mbps on broadband was not just high speed. It was astonishing. People who had Internet before others, were showing it off like a piece of art.

That's what a 10-minute grocery delivery is. It's not just a slightly faster way of getting goods. It is a paradigm shift that upends our existing belief systems about how fast something can/should be.

It forces us to redraw our mind maps and set new standards.

I can guess that some of us, who have used Blinkit/Zepto, have found ourselves wondering.

Hey, if Blinkit and Zepto can deliver me asparagus in 10 minutes, why can't Amazon, with all its money and drones and rockets, get me headphones faster than its one-day delivery?

Yes, I acknowledge one-day delivery is pretty fast. But remember the days when a parcel would take 3-4 working days? It was only a couple of years ago. Now, anything that takes more than a day's time to be delivered, makes us reevaluate our buying decision.

Transforming consumer behaviour and competitive landscape at the same time

This is what a 10-minute delivery is doing. It's rewiring our brains to expect a 10-minute fulfillment time for everything that lies between the spectrum of carrot and crocin.

It's a matter of time before our expectations expand faster than the SKUs on these apps. Cat food is already available, but I am betting that eventually, something as niche and fancy as a pizza for dogs will make its way to warehouses around the country.

What happens when consumers demand infinitely more categories from an app they like? Hint: a super app.

The journey isn't likely to be smooth. There are logistics to be figured, unit economics to be managed and a lot of tough business decisions await the 10-minute grocery startups. These decisions will range from deciding between breadth versus depth for a certain category, to figuring out the best strategy to minimise returns, delivery errors and fleet attrition.

But the one thing that's going for them is the most important thing, indeed.

Building addiction - one delivery at a time

It's the consumer's perceived lack of time, a cohort of high income users, and their propensity for addiction to things that sell luxury or convenience.

Be it high speed Internet or bottomless social media feed, the human mind has a knack for attaching itself to instant gratification and rewards.

I would go even further to say that the 10-minute delivery is closer to metaverse than we think. A virtual environment gives us physical rewards at our doorstep without the wait. Ten minutes may seem long, but in reality, it's faster than one would think. One distraction, one chore, one scroll through Spotify to play that perfect playlist....*ding dong*.

Many people may wonder at this point why 10-minute is a paradigm shift, while 15-30 minutes or even a one-hour delivery offered by the industry incumbents, is not.

The reason is the same as to why there are more than a dozen equally fast browsers out there built on the same technology, but Chrome and Firefox win out. It's not because of their raw speed, it's because of the story and promise. We don't necessarily want the fastest browser, we want the fastest looking and most up-to-date browser that has the least bugs, so, the experience feels smooth and fast.

That's what the 10-minute grocery delivery is doing. It's telling us a story we can't fully comprehend rationally, but our emotional and irrational brains love it.

Copycat is not equal to a fad

We love the gratification, but we also like the puzzle of logistics that's beyond comprehension. Like children pressing a red button over and over again, even though it brings the same sound out of the toy. Or, ordering from Domino's when you need pizza fast, even if a pizzeria is in the next street and offers doorstep delivery.

Finally, for something to be a fad, it has to have:

  1. Superfast adoption

  2. Widespread attention

  3. Short lifespan

A 10-minute grocery is doing the opposite. It's not logistically possible for the model to expand recklessly because of unique issues around everything, from sourcing to fulfillment in every region. It's getting a lot of press and adoption from urban millennials, but it's yet to reach a critical mass when it becomes the accepted norm. And boring.

While the lifespan of a 10-minute delivery model can't be predicted, it's pretty clear that it is unlikely to die anytime soon.

The Lindy Effect proposes that something that has been around for 100 years, will probably be around in another 100 years. But something that has survived only six months, could perish before the next six months. The effect doesn't give 10-minute grocery delivery a lot of credit yet, but with every passing day, the lifespan increases.

At the same time, the longer it stays, the harder will it be for the incumbents to not do it.

It may not make money yet, but for a very short period of time, the 10-minute delivery model will offer a company or two the opportunity to forever brand their name in the minds of their consumers. At the same time, they'll force an entire list of industries to follow suit.

Like Amazon did with Prime. In the US, the number of people with Amazon Prime subscriptions is more than those who have television sets.

The current grocery startups may not all become Amazon just on the basis of their delivery speed, but there's a field wide open to them to continue building on this and find ways to not just monetise, but also diversify and create a sustainable long-term business.

In the near future, delivery speed in itself may not predict success for a company, but it'll become extremely hard to forgive a lack of speed and reliability. (Flipkart, are you listening?)

That, to me, sounds like a win.

(The author heads marketing and content for FinBox, a FinTech startup based in Bangalore. He's an avid reader and writes at This article initially appeared on his Substack blog, titled 'Long and Short'.)

(Image courtesy RODNAE Productions from Pexels)

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