Shreyas Kulkarni

Who is next in line to ride the ‘Quick Commerce’ gravy train?

Q-Commerce is here to stay and while online grocery firms made it their own, we check which category is most likely to embrace it next.

2004 was a watershed year for the Indian consumer. Domino’s had introduced the ‘30 minutes or free’ offering in the country and for the first time, many Indians looked at the time and not just the price before making a purchase.

Tana na na ni O Pizza Aye Free

Fast forward to 2021 and things were not too different. ‘Time’, once again, discovered it was the carrot brands used to lure consumers. Only this time, it was the online grocery delivery giants who lured the bait and not a pizza maker.

Also Read: Swiggy Instamart rides ‘quick commerce’ wave with "15-30 minutes delivery" promise

The name of this hunting game is ‘Quick Commerce’ and it was all the rage last year. In it, the last-mile service is measured in minutes and not hours or days. Zepto and Blinkit (formerly Grofers) say they will deliver our orders in 10 minutes, Dunzo states 19 minutes, and Swiggy Instamart assures delivery in 15-30 minutes.

Such is the promise of this ‘Q-Commerce’ that RedSeer Consultancy in 2021 said it “is expected to grow 10-15x in the next 5 years, to become $5 billion by 2025”. Evidence of this was observed when Blinkit suspended operations at all locations where deliveries took more than 10 minutes.

At the start of 2021, nobody expected or asked for grocery delivery in such a short time. By the year-end, quick grocery delivery felt de rigueur.

Amar Wadhwa, founder and executive director of CrystalEyes, a marketing service organisation says "the importance of time has dawned of corporate India" who’s using it “as a marketing tool or as a differentiator.”

He says Q-Commerce is largely being heralded by new-age companies and in the case of delivery firms, they use a combination of technology and micro warehousing to identify top-selling units and stock them at warehouses (dark stores) close to points of delivery.

But, he can’t see it as a nationwide premise because that will require tremendous amounts of investment; he too quotes the Blinkit example of suspending operations where delivery time exceeds 10 minutes.

Impatient customers

We (afaqs!) are certain this habit of near-instant delivery service is sure to spoil customers. “It's a reflection of people who're impatient, they want it now,” remarks Lloyd Mathias, a business strategist and angel investor on the customers availing Q-commerce services.

Also Read: In the blink of an eye - the impatient consumer and quick grocery delivery

What is certain is the pressure this speedy delivery has and will put on other categories. Customers, who’ve tasted such convenience will expect the same from others as well. Mathias agreed to our premise and said that over time, it will start “growing across categories who will put speed as a dimension to their services.”

Q-commerce is a gravy train and everyone wants to profit off it.

He counted telecom services and household electronic items first because “people want it critically”. We agree because these items are a must-have and if you find yourself without an AC during the Mumbai summers or a heater during Delhi winters, you’re finished. And if you do order one, you’d expect the service to deliver it to your home right away; Q-commerce has read your mind.

Mathias also pointed towards emergency services such as a plumber or a carpenter whom you can expect to book via a service provider such as Urban Company.

What caught our eye was him telling us this Q-commerce trend's influence on education. “Even now, B-Schools has folks who train people how to participate in group discussions and how to handle interviews. Students contact the alumni and it usually happens 48 hours before the event.” Do you remember those crash courses coaching classes would offer before school examinations?

Also Read: “People want to minimise time spent outside because of COVID”: KFC’s Moksh Chopra on the need for ‘7 minute express pickup’

For Wadhwa, same day service or less from broadband and DTH firms is the next member of this quick commerce club. Adding to this, he pointed towards KFC’s new ‘7-Minute Express Pickup’ for dine-in and takeaway; you get a free chicken if the order is delayed by over seven minutes. And when we spoke about quicker delivery times from e-commerce firms, he agreed and said, “people will be ready to pay more” for critical items if delivered quickly.

One does wonder if the quick service trend should first come to the items that matter today: medicines and ambulance services. It takes us back to the movie ‘3 Idiots’ where Raju, one of the protagonists, sees her mom remark that we can get a pizza in 30 minutes but not an ambulance.

Cover photo by Rowan Freeman on Unsplash

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