BigBasket: An Online Grocery Revolution, One Basket at a Time

The tale of how Big Basket changed the face of grocery shopping in India with a streamlined platform


Grocery shopping has always been a hassle. Driving through heavy traffic, wading through the crowds from isle to isle, spending hours on end carting around your basket of items that you meticulously picked out and then of course standing in the lines. It truly earns its name as a chore and never really stood out as an enjoyable experience for most of us. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic did not do anything to alleviate that pain either. Yes, the concept of grocery shopping still existed as a necessity but then it was line after line to maintain social distancing and just piled onto the trouble that was grocery shopping. This is where BigBasket comes in to save the day and our energy.

Would you rather put yourself through the task of grocery shopping or would you rather be able to get everything on that list with a tap and swipe of a button? It is probably safe to assume that most of us would prefer the second one. So, without further delay, let us explore what BigBasket is and how it changed the face of grocery shopping in India.

Where Did BigBasket Find Its Beginnings?

BigBasket started out with one very simple aim in mind, which was to bring groceries to the customers, minus the crowds, traffic and the long lines. Hari Menon, along with V.S. Sudhakar, V.S. Ramesh, Vipul Parekh and Abhinay Choudhari founded BigBasket in 2011 in the wake of the Internet boom in India that was happening around that time alongside the extensive smartphone penetration.

In the beginning, the online grocer relied mostly on word-of-mouth style advertising and saw slow but steady growth for the first couple of years. A steady rise in transactions from customers led to more investments being made in the company which led to an exponential uptick in scaling and growth of the business. Now the online platform stands as one of India’s most popular and largest online grocer to date, clocking in over 100,000 orders per day.

A Redseer report suggests that the online grocery retail space in India is expected to reach a whopping $10.5 billion by 2023. With the presence of such a rapidly expanding market, BigBasket is primed and prepped to seize the opportunity as it holds such a large share of said market. Currently, BigBasket is active in over 25 Indian cities with plans to expand its operation that oversees a vast inventory of over 40,000 products to choose from.

The grocery giant’s unique approach to the market is a simple but effective one. It aims to meet customer convenience and cut out the day-to-day grind of the mundane task that is grocery shopping. In doing so they have carved out a niche for themselves as one of the first brands to do so early on in India. While many brands nowadays do cater to this type of convenience like Dunzo, BigBasket was the first to do so and it goes one step above by providing the delivery of perishable goods as well.

The brand initially did just start with their website which was the primary point of access to the online grocery service, but with the rise in popularity and investment BigBasket was able to expand its venues of operation to the now infamous BigBasket App as well as other ventures and initiatives: BB Daily, BB Instant, BB Beauty, BB Business, BB Mandi and Green Basket.

Hari Menon: BigBasket Founder
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BigBasket as a concept was ahead of its time and the rise of the pandemic only further proved the necessity for the existence of such a platform.

BigBasket: Features and Initiatives 

BigBasket Daily

BigBasket won a lot of hearts and minds with this initiative. It is essentially a subscription-based service that delivers perishable and day-to-day goods on a regular basis. With a primary focus on the delivery of fresh milk, the plan also allows for other items like produce, food grains, oils, masalas, beverages, snacks, pet care products, baby care items and even pooja essentials. This shows clear attention to detail of the brand’s customer demographic and their needs. Since there is no minimum order policy and the function is available on the web as well as app form, makes it that much more convenient. The genius play here is that the presence of a daily-essentials platform means customers will find a use for it on a regular basis, thereby driving up usage patterns and engagement across the platform.

BigBasket Instant

This is BigBasket’s line of unmanned vending machines or as they like to call it, ‘unmanned cashless smart stores’. These vending machines are available mostly only in Tier 1 cities as of now, in large corporate offices, select apartment complexes and tech parks. It is a great way to access the market on a 24×7 period and keep the customer engaged by having them unconsciously integrate the brand into their daily lives as they grab a snack or something from that oh-so-convenient vending machine on the way to work. 

BigBasket Business

We sometimes forget that households are not the only ones who need groceries, businesses need them too. Consider this sub-platform as BigBasket covering all its bases. BB Business provides quality groceries to Kirana stores, Pharmacies, Hotels, Restaurants, Caterers and Institutions.

The advantage of this particular venture lies in the fact that these institutions and businesses spend tremendous amounts of time, energy and money in setting up a logistics chain from different vendors to source the necessary products. BB Business takes away all that clutter and replaces it with one convenient platform that does all the outsourcing for them. Everything from packaged goods to fresh produce sourced from over 5000 farmers at mandi rates, all consolidated into a single bill that makes returns and filings easier. If streamlining was the name of the game, BigBasket is coming out on top. 

BigBasket Mandi

As mentioned above, BB Mandi is a sub-category under the BigBasket brand banner, that also exists in app form, and caters to customers looking purely for fresh veggies, fruits and other farm-fresh items sourced from local farmers at Mandi rates and delivered to the customers’ house.

The BigBasket Mobile App and Website

Now onto the big guns. The primary bread-winner, or so to speak, of the BigBasket franchise, is the main website that started it all, under which all other initiatives and branch-offs stand. The platform has over 40,000 products that are sourced from over 1000 national and international brands to choose from.

The stand-out factor here is that everything you can find on the website is conveniently located on the mobile app as well. The app itself has become a major industry disruptor with its speedy check-out process, timely delivery and accessibility in seven different regional languages. Though the website was launched with the founding of the company, the app only came into being in 2013, a good two years after the inception of the brand. Since then, the app has been downloaded over 10 million times.

Additionally, the app and website take the convenience factor a step further by way of the BigBasket Wallet. The wallet is a digital prepaid wallet that allows customers to conduct transactions across the board for anything BigBasket. On top of that, if any delivery is delayed or cancelled and the company gives you a discount or freebie, that monetary value gets added to the wallet as credit.

Essentially what BigBasket has done here is take a massive and diverse inventory and integrated it with a rapidly digitising marketplace, making the lives of all who use the brand, more convenient and streamlined. A wide selection ensures there is something for everyone, hence a very diverse and wide-spread audience for the brand and the digital approach makes everything easier, thereby driving up usability and engagement across the board.

Green Basket

More than being an initiative, Green Basket is an inbuilt philosophy and part of the very function of BigBasket. An offline grocery store needs to stock a physical inventory, for that they need electricity, fuel to and from the distribution centres, refrigeration and air-conditioning. All these factors add up to a hefty toll on the environment in the form of used resourced and carbon emissions. The very concept of an online grocer like BigBasket means that there is no need for brick-and-mortar shops, which cuts away the emissions and impact on the environment significantly.

Green Basket takes this clean approach a step further by minimising paper and plastic bags used in packing and transporting the goods to the customer as all goods are transported via crates, which are taken back and re-used for future deliveries.

Features of the BigBasket Platform

The Winning Formula for Success

Much of BigBasket’s success can be attributed to the fact that it has diversified its field of expertise to such a great extent, but even those extensions are successful because of one core factor; the attention to detail.

BigBasket maintains a unique strategy that seems a little obvious when looking at the surface, which is catering to the customers’ needs. When saying it out loud seems like an easy thing to do, but that would be the wrong assumption. BigBasket has gone so far out of its way to meet the customers’ needs that it has it down to the individual cities and localities that the platform is active in. Every location has a different demographic and each one of them has a particular need for some grocery items more than others, which BigBasket meets.

To supplement this access to more targeted products, the company also focused on sharpening the delivery aspect of things. The customised software guides their drivers to the customers via the fastest possible routes depending on the city. Despite all this, if the product reaches late customers get a 10 per cent discount and if items are missing, customers get a 50 per cent refund of the lost items. This is an assurance and loyalty-building scheme that seems to have worked out well for the brand as it currently stands as one of the leading online grocery platforms in the country.

This dual approach, in combination with the diversified chain of initiatives and apps, is what ultimately puts the brand in a better position, despite the heavily saturated market competition.

The brand as a whole has seen much growth and success over the years. In 2019 it made its way into the exclusive unicorn club and currently stands at a $ 2.5 Billion valuation with total funding of $ 1.1 Billion raised. The brand also has some of the biggest backers in the industry like Trifecta Capital, Helion Ventures Partners, Mirae Asset-Naver Asia Growth Fund and the famous Alibaba Group, laying its foundation.

Now the brand serves around 125 million customers across the nation, present in every imaginable customer demographic as it has something for everyone (businesses and people alike). It is thanks in large part to these investors and the unique approach to cornering their customer demographic that puts the company in a position where its platform can compete with new-comers and other heavy-hitters in the online grocery world of India.

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Though it may not have been the fastest rise to unicron status, BigBasket carved out a comfortable margin for itself at the top of the online grocery food chain by paying attention to its customers.

The Challenge of Staying on Top

There are many large and up-and-coming players in the online grocery industry like Grofers, PepperTap, LocalBanya, Dunzo and even some giants like Amazon and JioMart. While many of these players provide some stiff competition, BigBasket still manages to stay atop the game for a few reasons.

One, as discussed before, is the big-ticket backers who fund the company. Then of course comes the unique approach of catering to the regional and local needs of customers’ grocery habits. Most important of all, however, is the fact that BigBasket was early to the game. Sure, it may not have been the quickest rise to unicorn status that the market has seen, especially in recent times, but it was a rise nonetheless.

Think of BigBasket as a behemoth, a steady and reliable beast that was unwavering in a time where there was no concept of online grocery shopping in India. Sure, there were platforms like Amazon that did deliveries, but the grocery segment was wide open. BigBasket was the one to tackle that issue and close that gap.

As the old saying goes, The early bird gets the worm. In this case, that is what happened and it is why BigBasket as a platform still stands as a major pack leader amongst a rapidly changing industry.

For more inspiring stories check out our Inspire section.

DU Desk
DU Desk
Stories from DU Desk are the collective efforts of our in-house authors, guest authors and subject matter experts who collate and distill their ideas and thoughts to bring out actionable insights for our readers.

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