Aishwarya Ramesh

"Our marketing spend is at its lowest, since demand is high": Sai Ganesh, Dunzo

During lockdown, customers use Dunzo to get medicines, food, among other things, delivered. But what are the marketing challenges it's facing these days?

When an emergency strikes during lockdown, you're likely to reach out for your mobile phone to look for an app that specialises in delivery. The government has classified delivery as an essential service to ensure uninterrupted supply of goods to people.

One such business/company that has been delivering goods during lockdown is Dunzo, which started out as an ‘item’ delivery app. Whether it was an office laptop charger that you'd forgotten at home, or a set of documents that had to be transported across town, a Dunzo delivery partner helped move items to their destination. As time went by, Dunzo began specialising in other areas of delivery – including groceries, medicines, and shop supplies.

During lockdown, Dunzo has been working overtime in different areas to ensure that essential items are available to people. In a conversation with afaqs!, Sai Ganesh, marketing lead, Dunzo, mentions that grocery is the biggest delivery category on the app right now (since lockdown began). Dunzo was founded in July 2014, and Ganesh has been its marketing lead since August 2018.

Sai Ganesh
Sai Ganesh

He says that the demand for medicines has also gone up during this time. “We’ve seen a one-third increase in orders per user and the entire cart’s size itself has increased – it’s almost doubled in terms of what the value of each order was.” A Dunzo spokesperson corroborates this fact, mentioning that since lockdown began, the average order value has increased 4x on the app. Perishable goods, fruits and vegetables have seen 3x growth, as compared to pre-COVID times. The share of essential goods on the platform has also doubled, says the spokesperson.

Ganesh says that some categories Dunzo operates in are well known to people, but one of the major challenges is to create awareness about the other categories the company operates in. “When I first joined Dunzo, there was so much confusion on what to call it – ‘a local courier service’, or a ‘delivery platform’. There was a lot of debate and discussion happening on this front because essentially, we were creating a category."

"This is a new category altogether, which requires habit forming. So, that was a challenge for us. People have become habituated to food delivery and e-commerce delivery over the past five years or so, but new categories like ‘send packages’ are still a surprise for some people. For example, ordering food and toys for pets is new,” he says.

"When I first joined Dunzo, there was so much confusion on what to call it – ‘a local courier service’, or a ‘delivery platform’. There was a lot of debate and discussion happening on this front because essentially, we were creating a category."
Sai Ganesh, marketing lead, Dunzo

Ganesh emphasises on the safety measures that the company has had to take to ensure that delivery partners don’t catch COVID-19. Especially now, when people from other lines of work are also opting to become Dunzo delivery partners in a bid to find employment. The platform is now remotely onboarding partners, too.

These measures include providing masks and protective equipment, regular health and temperature checks, a new insurance policy that specifically covers them for Coronavirus-related expenses, and guaranteed pay in case they need to be quarantined. To ensure that delivery partners maintain social distancing at merchant stores, Dunzo adopted a system of queuing orders (for fulfilment, one after the other).

Ganesh explains that when it comes to food delivery, Dunzo has seen a change in consumer behaviour since lockdown began. “Hunger is a mental and physical phenomenon, so people want the food to arrive as fast as possible. But during lockdown, we’re seeing a lot of empathetic behaviour from users. They’re being more patient with delivery partners, even concerned about them, and less picky about the time of delivery, too. They understand that there are challenges and restrictions because of the lockdown.”

He adds that the 'tipping' feature was launched on the app as a user generated request, when customers contacted the team looking for ways to tip the delivery partners for their service.

Talking about Dunzo’s signature ‘punny’ social media posts and push notifications, Ganesh reiterates that the main aim has always been to create awareness about the brand. “We aim to be a top of the mind service, which means that if and when people require food, medicines, groceries, or any essential delivery, they should think about Dunzo as the number one brand. Ninety-nine per cent of our work happens on digital, and what we’ve seen on social media during the lockdown period is that a lot of people are looking for positive news, and the second is collaborative news. They’re a little fatigued with negative news.”

“When consumers look at brands, they’re looking to see positive news and they have a strong bullshit radar. They know when a brand is just trying to sell itself, or stay relevant to current times. What we look at is creating content that people want to see. This includes posts on trending topics, moment marketing, etc. We started a trend where we were congratulating partners from Swiggy, Zomato, Amazon, PharmEasy, etc. People want to see brands and other people helping others at this time,” added Ganesh.

"When consumers look at brands, they’re looking to see positive news and they have a strong bullshit radar. They know when a brand is just trying to sell itself, or stay relevant to current times."
Sai Ganesh, marketing lead, Dunzo

Ganesh mentions that people traditionally hate push notifications on apps. But when the team uses puns, humour, etc., it is an effective way to make people turn on and read push notifications. “Popular culture references, witty remarks, movie dialogue references, etc., work well with content, too. We use clever copy to push our brand messaging, and that’s what the brief to our social media team is, too."

"Most of our media spends is on performance marketing, which is largely led by social media and digital campaigns. Before this, in certain pockets, we’ve tried offline marketing, and to be honest, that’s something we’re seeing limited attribution for.”

Dunzo is currently focused on eight metro cities. It’s targeted at people who have smartphones. Ganesh confesses that from the marketing side, the challenge was getting non-tech-savvy users to join in. “We’ve already had a pool of users that, say, watch Netflix over TV – that’s the easier piece of the pie."

"The challenge is when you scale up (which Dunzo has been doing for the last six years) to reach out to an audience that is not as tech-savvy, who maybe slightly older, and their primary language may not be English. In that case, the app design needs to be more visual in nature, and not just copy led. We classify these audiences into India I and India II. A large segment of India II users is still experimenting with apps.”

Ganesh mentions that the brand has grocery competitors, like BigBasket and Grofers, as well as food delivery competitors, like Zomato and Swiggy. "Unfortunately, or fortunately, we compete with a lot of people. However, we also have a large network of offline partners, and we specialise in delivery of anything and everything."

He adds that package delivery is one of Dunzo's biggest categories, and it was the only name to turn to, a few months ago. "We’re in highly competitive categories, yes, but we’re also present in some categories that barely have any competition at all. Right now, we’re focusing on hiring new partners, getting new users on board, achieving a bigger cart size for orders, and so on.”

"We have grocery competitors, like BigBasket and Grofers. There are food delivery competitors, like Zomato and Swiggy. Unfortunately, or fortunately, we compete with a lot of people."
Sai Ganesh, marketing lead, Dunzo

Due to its previous dominance in the packages category, Ganesh says that there’s a small portion of people who previously would’ve used Dunzo in emergency situations – if they needed something they might have forgotten, to be picked up. During lockdown, a lot of these users have now turned into habitual (app) users. “Our marketing spends today are at the lowest they’ve ever been because the demand is significantly high right now. That habit forming for us is becoming easier, and there’s a newer audience coming on to the app who haven’t earlier used our services.”

Another area of focus for Dunzo is strategic partnerships with FMCG companies. The companies it has partnered with include Britannia, Hershey's, Dabur, Nestle, Cavin Kare, Nivea, MTR, Weikfield, Del Monte, Dukes, Havmor, HUL, P&G (Maharashtra), Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Unibic, Saffola, Kwality Wall's, Wipro, Jyothy Labs. Partnerships are live across Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad. The (Dunzo) spokesperson mentions that the main objective of these partnerships is to ensure that essential products are available to users across cities.

“While there is a strong demand for essentials in cities, these partnerships allow brands to build a loyal following on Dunzo. Users have access to a wide range of brands and products during this lockdown period, and while these partnerships ensure the steady supply of goods and services, users are able to enjoy their choice of brand, regardless of circumstances,” says the spokesperson.

In this case, Dunzo becomes a data-driven distribution channel for the stock keeping units, ensuring demand density for these brands. “As long as Dunzo is able to maintain that, brands should continue to leverage the on-demand experience of Dunzo,” added the spokesperson.