On the contrary to other cities across India, Jammu & Kashmir does not enjoy the liberty of flourishing e-commerce businesses. The valley faces sudden lockdowns, curfews, abrupt communication cuts and an increasing number of violent incidents which result in uncertainty. Such conditions do not allow suitable situations for companies to grow and evolve.
Certain uninvited crises also make the life gruesome for locals in availing the necessities such as vegetables, groceries and various items of daily needs. The 28-year-old Malik Aadil has stepped in here by quitting his IT job and starting the valley’s first and presently the largest online grocery store Groxery- The Store next door.
A graduate with an MBA degree marketing from Bengaluru, Malik Aadil had joined Grofers, an online grocery delivery store in 2015. After working there for about two years, he thought about replicating the business model in his home state. The Groxery app, which already has bagged over 5,000 downloads on iOS and 45,000 downloads on Android, allows users to book the items they require. The app then connects the order to the nearest grocery stores and promises to have the items delivered within 70 minutes or less.
He had formed the company with his cousin Shoaib and a friend Hyder. “Things were going well, and the team grew to include 20 people in four months. We bagged major clients in the beverage, automotive and property sector. After building a team of 250 persons across ten cities, I decided to take a break in March 2020 and returned to my hometown in Kashmir,” he says. He says he received a much larger response than he first expected.
“We have 65,000 app downloads to date, with 300 downloads every day. The average cart order is Rs 1,250, and about 400 orders are received every day”Aadil says.
Reviews of the store say that it’s the first of its kind in the Valley, and that their services have only been improving day by day. Aadil confesses that around this time, COVID-19 lockdown was announced, and he became confined to his village in Bandipora. “Here, I saw people struggling to buy groceries, especially the elderly, who relied on neighbours or friends to help them procure supplies” he adds to his biggest challenges while opening the online store.
“Around 70% of the products are directly sourced from vendors, while the remaining are procured locally from various establishments. Customers can choose between two different types of delivery, express or slot. With express delivery, ordered items reach customers in 70 minutes. While the Slot Delivery allows users a specific time slot that can be chosen as per the convenience of user” Aadil explained while adding “The express delivery is the main USP of the company, as no other e-commerce platform in the Valley offers such services.”
Shazia Farooq a user of the app from Srinagar has been using it for more than nine months. “There was a dire need of such start-up, which could make accessing daily necessities easier. Local grocery shops were closed, and Groxery made it possible to get products delivered at home. Even with weak internet connectivity, the delivery executives ensured that orders were accepted and delivered” she says. “In the beginning, people were reluctant to make online payments and preferred cash on delivery. But as trust started to build, 70% of the payments were being made online” he says. Besides technical issues, Aadil struggled with ensuring employee safety during the pandemic and creating an ecosystem for no contact delivery. He now has plans to expand delivery services to Badgam, Pulwama, Jammu and other districts. “At present, we have 35 persons employed with us and we plan to increase the staff to 100. It gives me immense satisfaction to be able to serve the people in the valley, especially as they are in need and find it very difficult to access basic necessities in these unprecedented times” he further contributes.
Such apps are going to be the game changer of the e-commerce market in the valley and Malik Aadil and the likes have always been inspiring the rest to lead and progress while pursuing their dreams and serving the people of the nation.