Sadar Bazaar, Delhi’s iconic wholesale market, finds a mention several times during a conversation with Grofers founder Saurabh Kumar. The old Delhi market embodies what Kumar says is the latest avatar of the Gurugram-based e-grocery. Just like Sadar Bazaar, a mecca for discount-seekers looking for anything from groceries to household supplies, Kumar wants Grofers to be the go-to destination for value-conscious shoppers online.

While “value” has different definitions for different people, Grofers is clear on its definition—pricing. It is targeting bargain hunters, those looking to save a few bucks on their monthly groceries. For those keeping score, this is only the latest in a number of pivots from the six-year-old Grofers. Experts feel that e-grocers in India are still unsure of what works and what doesn’t and are, therefore, trying out various things. And Grofers is prolific at this.

The startup, founded by Albinder Dhindsa and Kumar, began with a hyperlocal marketplace model, a la US-based Instacart. When that didn’t work out, Grofers followed its larger rival Bigbasket’s lead—it moved to an inventory-led model in 2016. In the same year, it also flirted with the idea of offline retail and was even in talks to supply produce to large grocery retail chains Reliance Fresh and Future Group-owned Big Bazaar.

Grofers penchant for pivoting and experimenting shouldn’t be written off. The company struggled during 2015-16, as the unit economics of its marketplace model wasn’t working out. The company was losing Rs 24 lakh ($34,500) per day. There was even talk of a possible acquisition by Bigbasket a year later. But the company is still chugging along in 2019. It even raised $60 million in fresh funding from Japanese behemoth SoftBank in March. With a post-money valuation of around $425 million.

Survival in itself is something of an achievement in India’s online grocery space, which is littered with the corpses of failed startups. The likes of Localbanya, PepperTap and, most recently, Zopnow. For some, the business model didn’t work; others found it difficult to raise capital.

Grofers will be hoping that its latest, quite literally, value proposition is where it will finally realise the potential that investors have thrown money at. The company has so far raised $225 million from venture capital investors.

If Grofers wanted to be Instacart back in 2014, it now sees itself as an online version of German-based value retailer Aldi. Kumar does not expressly say as much, but mentions Aldi as the only real parallel for what Grofers is doing. Aldi is a hardcore adherent to the idea that value drives volume. It runs small, no-nonsense stores, offers prices lower than other retailers and stocks a large number of its own labels. This approach has led to Aldi controlling a respectable 6.9% share of the UK grocery market.



Vandana is based in Delhi. She covers vertically focussed startups in consumer internet space and also writes on travel tech and smartphones for The Ken. She has spent 13 years in journalism covering a wide range of subjects- equity markets, mutual funds to education and skilling, working at organisations such as Business Standard, CNBC TV18 and The Week in the past.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at detailing the error or queries.