58 seconds. That’s all the time that can pass at this dark store dark store Dark stores are a term for retail grocery stores whose sole purpose is the fulfilment of pickup and delivery orders. They are typically located at the last few miles of the customer, are smaller than a typical grocery store, and stock a lower variety of products in exchange for sub-hour delivery times. —from receiving an order to picking items to packing to getting the order ready to go. Why? Because the order needs to reach the customer in under 10 minutes. Ideally, in eight minutes and 47 seconds—the company average.

There’s literally not a minute to waste on getting the delivery bag ready. That’s the premise Zepto—the hungry, new e-grocer in town—operates on. Eight-month-old Zepto’s backbone—its dark stores—use AI-enabled technology and data to maximise efficiency. 

Picture this: You place an order on Zepto, the system is notified and immediately assigns both a packer and a delivery rider for your order. Your packer—like others in the dark store—rushes through the aisles with a tablet in hand, and the tech informs them of where they need to head next to bag the next product in your order.

The racks, chillers, freezers are all arranged based on what customers are likely to order the most. You’ve ordered veggies? Packed. Next: Meat? Done. Bread, eggs, and milk are right next to the handover station exit. Also added. Your packer has managed all this in just over 50 seconds as they didn’t need to scan every item—all SKUs SKUs Stock keeping units is a term used by retailers to identify and track inventory. An SKU is a unique code consisting of letters and numbers that identify characteristics about each product, such as manufacturer, brand, style, colour, and size.  are verified using Zepto software. It’s all bagged and good to go.

“It’s a play on technology and logistics,” comments Kabeer Biswas, co-founder at competitor Dunzo. 

Truly, technology seems to run the show at Zepto’s dark stores. From navigating to the right shelf to using tech to place items. It even tracks and analyses the paths its packers take within the dark store to identify choke points at different times and then makes modifications in the internal design to circumvent this congestion.

The tablets track each item that leaves a shelf, updating the inventory in real-time. All to save time. Even bags are flat-bottomed to make sure the lid doesn’t close when an item is placed. This alone saves nearly 5-6 seconds per order on average, Zepto claims.

“Overall, by the time the order exchanges hands at the handover station, it would be just 58 seconds on average,” claims Aadit Palicha, co-founder at Zepto.

AUTHOR

Aayush Agarwal

Aayush covers businesses that are primarily Internet for The Ken. In his previous stint at Goldman Sachs, he spent slightly more than a year analysing investment opportunities in the China Internet space. A science graduate, he completed his postgraduate from the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode. Write to him if, among other things, you wish to talk about e-businesses, journalism or just offbeat career choices.

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