For Vikram Kumar, an Amazon delivery executive in New Delhi, the last few months have been rather hectic. It’s eight pm on a chilly Friday evening, and Kumar is at my doorstep, delivering his penultimate order of the day. “Din mein aath ya dus order toh kar hi leta hoon sir,” he says. (“I manage to deliver eight to ten orders in a day.) He’s among the army of delivery executives Amazon has roped in for its hyperlocal grocery delivery offering—Amazon Now. He has about ten other colleagues stationed at Modern Bazaar, in nearby Vasant Vihar, to do precisely what he does—pick up your grocery orders, and deliver it to your doorstep.

Last month, Amazon India formally expanded its hyperlocal grocery delivery offering—Amazon Now in Delhi National Capital Region (NCR), Mumbai and Hyderabad. The service was earlier piloted as Kirana Now in Bengaluru, sometime around March 2015, before its formal launch in that city in February last year.

Screenshot of the Amazon Now Android App

The company wouldn’t put an exact number to it, but operations executives in the capital say that the number of orders spiked nearly 4-5 times during the last three months—from 200-500 a day to anywhere between 800-1000 on an average. This is only in New Delhi. Add NCR (Noida, Gurugram and Faridabad) to the mix, and the number is estimated to hover around 1500-1900 orders per day. Delhi NCR has already emerged as the second largest market for Amazon Now after Bengaluru, where it delivers an estimated number of 2000-2500 orders per day.

Saurabh Srivastava, director, category management FMCG at Amazon India said in an email, “The (Amazon Now) app has witnessed an amazing uptake by customers in Bengaluru, and this overwhelming response prompted us to expand the offering to Hyderabad, Delhi and Mumbai in the last few months.”

However, Amazon is getting into what many would refer to as an unresolved territory in India. It’s not been easy.

The holy grail

Things have changed since two years ago when hyperlocal was the buzzword within the Indian startup scene. Funding in this space has dried up considerably. Business models have evolved; they are more geared towards rationalising operations to lower costs.

And then, there are newer strategies at play—private labels and next-day delivery to name a few. Not to forget, the demands of the category have also led startups like Localbanya to shut shop. Others like PepperTap have pivoted to logistics. Even Flipkart, Amazon’s great e-commerce rival in India, hasn’t been able to crack hyperlocal. To be sure, Flipkart experimented with a hyperlocal service—Nearby—in October 2015, before shutting it down five months later. Likewise, online payments company Paytm launched its grocery delivery service Paytm Zip in April 2015, before shutting it down two months later.

AUTHOR

Venkat Ananth

Venkat is currently in his tenth year in journalism. Prior to The Ken, he was Deputy Content Editor at Mint as part of the newspaper’s digital team. He also wrote in-depth features on the business of sport for the newspaper. His earlier assignments include Yahoo! (as a columnist) and the Hindustan Times, where he began his career. Born in Mumbai, Venkat holds a Bachelor of Mass Media (Journalism) degree from SIES College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Mumbai and a Master of Arts degree in International Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London. He currently resides in New Delhi, where he moved nearly five years ago.

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