Funding Spree: Navigating the Quick Commerce Revolution with Dunzo, Zepto, and More

Era of lightning fast Services

In India is Quick Commerce has been nothing short of glimpses for fascinating innovation, operational disruption, and adaptation and even creation of changing consumer preferences. Did you know? Until 2021, Indian quick commerce startups raised over $12.7 billion in funding, providing significant capital for these ventures to scale and expand their operations.

This narrative delves into the evolution, key players, funding histories, and future possibilities of quick commerce startups in India. Indian quick commerce startups have the potential to revolutionize the way customers shop. With more funding and ‘probable’ innovation, this sector is quite optimistic about the continuum. Well, by the time COVID-19 hit, there was a huge gap between Big Basket’s Scheduled Delivery to wearing the mask yourself, going out and buying it, to address this Dunzo was the first key player in the sector.

Entered this Market as—- Dunzo Daily, started offering a wide range of services including home groceries, food delivery, medicines, pet supplies, health and wellness products, gifts, pick and drop services, laundry delivery, and more, all delivered within an impressive 35-40 minutes with a minimal delivery fee, What’s more? Dunzo it! Became a word of mouth for the early adopters.

Dunzo's rise was fueled by its technology ability to optimize delivery routes and streamline operations and a lumsum of $444 million over 16 rounds in funding, attracting investments from prominent venture capital firms such as Google Ventures, Lightbox Ventures, and Blume Ventures. With each funding round, Dunzo expanded its services and geographical reach, becoming synonymous with quick commerce in India,

Operating in cities like Gurgaon, Pune, Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi, and Hyderabad, Dunzo Daily had implemented strategic initiatives to enhance its operations and ensure a high return on investment through the adoption of the quick commerce business model. With a strong emphasis on supply chain efficiency and delivering exceptional customer experiences, Dunzo Daily experienced remarkable growth of 40x in 2020-21, handling an impressive 2 million monthly orders.

Since the last quarter of 2022, they faced several challenges that contributed to its apparent decline. Serving as a standout amidst the graveyard of hyperlocal startups that emerged and swiftly faded away between 2015 and 2016, Dunzo stood as a resilient survivor in this competitive landscape for many years before they seemingly went down themselves due to overreliance on discounting, mixed focus on hyperlocal deliveries and quick commerce, etc.

Where is the heat coming from though? Well, while Dunzo was doing their thing, all the other giants and the dwarfs, were drawing up their strategy on a board. With the rise of the number of QC companies, there were really interesting insights that were coming in, one such dwarf (back then) Aadit Palicha, the Co-Founder of Zepto, founded in 2020 noticed that repeat rates are higher with places that are served under 10 Mins! Well, thats the overlaying innovation that he played with to scale Zepto to the point where its currently valued at $1.4 Billion, along with Zomato (through Blinkit) and Swiggy (with Instamart) who forayed into quick commerce aggressively.

All This Buzz, But What is Quick Commerce, essentially?

In it’s core, it is synonymous to convenience. Traditional e-commerce platforms disrupted retail by providing extensive product choices online, with features like one-click ordering and flexible return policies for enhanced accessibility. Despite offering same-day or next-day delivery, start-ups remained a gap in meeting consumer demands for near-instant deliveries, prompting the emergence of quick commerce. Essentially, quick commerce aims to deliver goods within 10 to 30 minutes, leveraging proximity to customers and technology for optimized delivery routes. Dunzo, Blinkit, and Zepto exemplify this model, strategically locating fulfillment centers in urban areas for swift deliveries of high-demand items.

These startups embrace the gig economy, utilizing freelance delivery runners for on-demand order fulfillment, enabling rapid scalability without extensive infrastructure. The rise of 10-minute delivery apps and QC is revolutionizing the retail industry, offering unparalleled speed and convenience to consumers. With rapid expansion, significant investments, and innovative technology-driven solutions, quick commerce startups are poised to shape the future of retail and redefine the way we shop for goods and services. Quick-commerce platforms Swiggy Instamart, Zomato-owned Blinkit, Zepto and BBNow, which deliver to consumers within 10-20 minutes, are contributing between 30% and 50% of ecommerce sales of FMCG companies. As the Indian quick commerce market is projected to reach $5 billion by 2025, immense growth potential and opportunities available for startups operating in this space. The sector has experienced a consistent annual growth rate of 12-15%, indicating a promising outlook for quick commerce startups in the country, especially for the ventures who have already made their wave in the market, at full speed, like Zepto raising $200 million in their latest funding round at a valuation of $1.4 billion, at a time when most other ventures in the category have either died or are struggling. The funding made Zepto the first and only Indian startup to attain the unicorn status in 2023!

The Zepto Business Model: Dark Stores

Dark stores, though they may sound foreboding, revolutionize traditional retail strategies that sustained businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. These distribution centers operate behind the scenes, inaccessible to the public. Often compact warehouses, they efficiently fulfill orders and offer consumers options like same-day delivery, in-store pickup, and online shopping.For example, Zepto's immediate triumph lies in its consistent delivery of over 2,500 items within 10 minutes. This capability forms the core of the online grocery business, propelling rapid industry growth while fostering strong customer loyalty. Zepto has streamlined delivery times to just ten minutes through its adoption of the dark store model. The grocery delivery sector is witnessing significant profitability, with startups like Zepto leading the charge in rapid expansion within the delivery industry.

Pros and Cons of the Zepto Business Model

Other than escalating demand for swift food and grocery deliveries created a void that the Zepto business model effectively filled, particularly during the unforeseen challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, if you use Zepto, you are bound to shop majorly driven by instinct, not by need, and feeds on people who have compulsive shopping tendencies, strategies by Zepto, which is adapted majorly by other players like Blinkit and others as well.

Enhanced Delivery Speed and Distribution

Zepto efficiently processes multiple orders through its dark stores, enabling diverse distribution channels that bring groceries closer to target markets. The platform effectively manages grocery distribution operations.

Optimized Product Range and Inventory Management

Dark stores excel in inventory control, handling large order volumes without direct consumer interactions. Zepto's AI-driven platform enhances inventory tracking and product assortment for an efficient operational model. The shift towards contactless shopping has prompted businesses to adopt a "dark store" strategy. Cloud kitchens or dark stores empower consumers to shop for meals and groceries without physical interaction or visits to brick-and-mortar stores. Online access facilitates immediate deliveries.

Just a India thing?

As economies transition into recovery mode, consumers are gradually returning to physical stores for their shopping needs. However, the resilience of e-commerce remains undeniable. Instead of waning, its market share continues to burgeon, with the gross merchandise value projected to soar to a staggering US$211 billion by 2026 in Southeast Asia alone. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic witnessed a flourishing of logistics firms specializing in last-mile delivery.

According to a survey conducted by INSEAD business school, a resounding 80 percent of respondents expressed a desire for same-day delivery, with 61 percent keen on receiving their purchases within a swift 1-3 hour timeframe. Notably, in 2022, a staggering 90 percent of e-commerce grievances revolved around delivery delays. In response, many logistics companies swiftly pivoted, overhauling their supply chains to meet the heightened expectations of consumers.

In Singapore, the quest for faster delivery emerged as a pivotal marketing strategy during the Singles’ Sale in November 2022. This online sales extravaganza, renowned for its global revenue haul, witnessed Lazada Singapore unveiling a groundbreaking Priority Delivery service, affording consumers the luxury of receiving their orders within a mere two days, sans any additional charges. The astounding success of this initiative has since cemented the Priority Delivery service as a cornerstone of Lazada's e-commerce repertoire.

The surge in demand for food and groceries has been a primary driver of growth in the realm of quick commerce (q-commerce), where deliveries are notably time-sensitive. Yet, even as the pace of expansion in this sector moderates with the reopening of dine-in options, q-commerce ventures boldly into uncharted territories, diversifying its product offerings.

As quick commerce providers broaden their horizons beyond the realm of food and groceries, other sectors, notably fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), are following suit, ramping up their delivery mechanisms. Case in point, Japanese fashion and home goods behemoth MUJI forged a strategic partnership with Meituan, China's premier food delivery shopping platform, to offer lightning-fast delivery services within China's borders, with over 90 percent of the 240 Muji stores in China have launched online business on Meituan Shangou, selling over 4,000 types of commodities including daily necessities, kitchenware, clothing, shoes, bags, cosmetics, skin care products and office supplies. E-commerce platforms serve as invaluable repositories of real-time consumer data, furnishing businesses with crucial insights into customer behavior. From the duration of site visits to the most frequented product pages, every interaction is meticulously tracked and analyzed. Armed with this wealth of information, business owners can devise targeted strategies to optimize their offerings and promotions, besides that, the evolution, of Qick Commerce as we know it has been birthed from initial e-commerce insights, which gave the tech world a 101 about retail. The ascent of q-commerce has heralded a transformation in delivery strategies. From the emergence of dark stores to the proliferation of self-pickup options, last-mile delivery is evolving into a realm characterized by heightened hyperlocality, advanced automation, and enhanced operational efficiency.


While many quick commerce platforms are still in the phase of heavy investment, this innovative business model has gained significant traction across numerous metropolitan and Tier 1 cities. A distinct market segment has emerged specifically catering to the demands of quick commerce in major urban centers. The notable success stories of the aforementioned platforms underscore the growing necessity for additional players in this space. Given the substantial market size, quick commerce ventures have also ventured into the realm of grocery delivery. The innate inclination of consumers towards swift completion of tasks further bolsters enterprises operating in this sector. Whether it's observing the swift flow of vehicles as traffic lights change or passengers eagerly awaiting disembarkation upon landing, the desire for expeditious service is ingrained in human nature. Therefore, when businesses endeavor to fulfill this urgent demand by offering rapid grocery delivery, success is almost guaranteed.

Hyperlocal deliveries present ongoing challenges for both business-to-consumer (B2C) and direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands, particularly as they strive to meet increasingly stringent delivery timelines. While customers consistently anticipate faster delivery, their willingness to pay for such services varies.

Quick commerce platforms play a vital role as facilitators of growth within the rapidly evolving landscape of consumption-based economies worldwide. However, it's worth noting that many of these platforms are currently operating at a loss. This trend is largely driven by a deliberate strategy of capital expenditure aimed at gauging market preferences and catering to the needs of a sizable consumer base. Achieving a delicate balance between investment and revenue generation remains paramount for e-commerce businesses, as it enables them to navigate strategically and cost-effectively through the market landscape. Despite current challenges, the long-term prospects for quick commerce remain promising.

The Future

When it comes to the future, it’ll definitely last more than 10 minutes, picture this: a world where your favorite items are delivered to your doorstep within minutes, not hours, a drone whizzing through the sky, bypassing traffic jams and navigating tricky terrain to bring your order straight to you. It's not just science fiction anymore; it's the potential reality of Quick Commerce. With drones, QC providers can deliver orders faster and more efficiently than ever before. No more waiting for hours for your package to arrive – with drones, you could have your items in hand within minutes. But it's not just about speed. Drones also have the potential to reach remote and underserved areas, ensuring that everyone has access to the convenience of QC, no matter where they live. Of course, there are challenges to overcome. Regulations, safety concerns, and logistical hurdles all need to be addressed before drone delivery can become a widespread reality. But with collaborative efforts and ongoing innovation, we're well on our way to making drone delivery a part of everyday life, bit in all views envisioning the integration of drone delivery within India's Quick Commerce landscape, it's crucial to confront the unique challenges and considerations that arise in this dynamic and diverse environment.

One of the foremost challenges is ensuring the safety of both the drones themselves and the packages they carry. India's bustling urban centers and densely populated neighborhoods present a myriad of obstacles for drone navigation, including narrow alleyways, high-rise buildings, and heavy traffic. There's also the risk of drones being tampered with or intercepted, either by individuals seeking to steal packages or by malicious actors intending to cause harm.

Another challenge is the regulatory framework governing drone operations, which is still evolving, with stringent regulations in place to ensure airspace safety and security. Compliance with these regulations, including obtaining necessary permits and adhering to flight restrictions, adds another layer of complexity to drone delivery operations. Addressing these challenges will require a multi-faceted approach, involving collaboration between government agencies, law enforcement authorities, QC providers, and technology developers. This may include implementing geofencing technology to prevent drones from flying into restricted areas, deploying security measures such as encrypted communication and anti-tampering mechanisms, and establishing clear protocols for responding to security incidents.

In conclusion, while the integration of drone delivery into India's Quick Commerce ecosystem presents significant challenges, it also offers immense opportunities to enhance efficiency, accessibility, and convenience for consumers across the country. By addressing safety and security concerns through collaborative efforts and innovative solutions, we can pave the way for a future where drone delivery plays a pivotal role in shaping the next generation of e-commerce and logistics in India. Stay connected about many such ‘Start-Updates’, across all sectors, and more on the Medial App, a professional social media platform tailored for the start-up ecosystem. With a content and community-led approach, it aims to create a decluttered space for professionals across domains such as product, tech, UI/UX, and infrastructure, among others. With its professionals-first algorithm, the app promotes meaningful content in a non-intrusive manner, enabling learning and growth for its community.

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