India: Fruit and veg the driving force behind Big Basket's online expansion - FreshFruitPortal.com

India: Fruit and veg the driving force behind Big Basket's online expansion

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India: Fruit and veg the driving force behind Big Basket's online expansion

Indian online retailer Big Basket plans to get even bigger by expanding its fresh produce categories, organic offerings and increasing operations across Indian states. Fruit and vegetable category head, Vipul Mittal, speaks with www.freshfruitportal.com about the key factors propelling India'’s online grocery shopping sector.

Fresh produce is the biggest driver of the e-grocery shopping business, according to Mittal.

As more health conscious Indians turn to the internet to buy their fresh fruit and vegetables, Big Basket is extending its range of produce to cater for increasing trends towards avocados, kiwifruit and dragon fruit.

But this means more focus on imports and home-grown organics to cater for the developing tastes of Indian consumers, who are looking towards organic ranges as well as experimenting with new fruit.

“"We cover the entire spectrum of fresh produce, offering a range of more than 500 unique fresh produce products. The catalogue covers regular fruits and vegetables, imported fruit and vegetables, organic fresh produce, herbs and seasoning as well as cuts and sprouts, to serve all the needs and wants of our customers,”" Mittal tells www.freshfruitportal.com.

Vipul Mittal

Vipul Mittal

"Fresh produce is the biggest driver in demand for e-grocery shopping and about 16-17% of our total sales are driven by fresh produce. We aim to expand our catalogue by adding the most enjoyed and best quality seasonal and imported fruits.

"“We see a trend where consumers are ready to experiment with new as well as imported items. Cut vegetables contribute about 8% to 10% of monthly sales, for instance.”"

India'’s organic revolution

Sales of organics have also jumped, contributing approximately 8% of Big Basket'’s total fruit and vegetable sales.

"“Big Basket caters for the needs of health conscious consumers as well by offering the largest range of organic fresh produce at an affordable rate.

“"We do see a growing demand for fresh produce orders as customers are trying new and imported items each day. For example, we recently introduced an 'easy-to-open' ‘tender coconut’ in our catalogue which is gaining strong interest amongst consumers.

"We shall also be deepening our penetration in the supply chain to bring the most differentiated quality assortment on the table.”"

Big Basket is on the verge of contract farming arrangements for organic fruit and vegetables in various states and is planning to develop an organic certification process in line with Indian government standards. The aim is to reduce reliance on organic imports, lower prices (currently organics are 25-30% more expensive than regular produce) and set up a system that provides consistent, high quality produce.

Challenges of delivering fresh produce

Big Basket'’s ‘'no questions asked' returns policy’ is testament to company confidence in providing consistent quality produce, but Mittal admits this is one of the biggest challenges in the online fresh produce space.

“"Consumers are very particular about the quality of the produce they receive, especially when they are shopping online.

"“Ensuring consistent quality of the produce is the biggest challenge in the industry. The quality of the produce mainly depends on factors like incoming quality, temperature integrity and packaging.

"We are mitigating this problem by making innovations in packaging and delivery mechanism. A one hour express delivery is offered to customers to ensure the quality of the perishable products (fresh produce).”"

The majority of Big Basket'’s fresh produce is sourced from local farmers via more than ten collection centers operating across India where it is then shipped directly to warehouses.

“"This gives the customer the advantage of the freshest produce, as there is minimum time between harvest and delivery.

“"As ensuring consistent quality is the biggest challenge, we focus on the packaging and the time taken to deliver the order. We pack the fresh produce in eco-friendly paper bags or wrappers to ensure the quality."

“"We do face increases and decreases in sales of fresh produce as the market is mainly dependent on seasons. We see a rise in sales in summer and winter months on the strength of seasonal fruit and vegetables and there is a little depression in February and June due to the transition from one season to the other.”"

Big Basket logistics

Currently Big Basket operates in 14 cities (Bangalore, Mysore, Hyderabad, Vijayawada-Guntur, Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar, Vadodara, Delhi and Lucknow) and plans to expand services to a total of 25 cities by the end of this financial year.

The additional locations will be selected based on the level of internet penetration and demand.

The main warehouse is located in the center of each city from which all deliveries take place. In metro cities there are also smaller warehouses with top-up products and fresh produce. The average order from dark store (a distribution center for online shopping) gets delivered in approximately 60 minutes.

“"We operate our own logistical system and all processes are backed by modern IT support to ensure error-free operations.”"

On top of Big Basket’'s fleet of vans, riders on motorbikes quickly navigate busy cities to deliver produce to the doorstep at allotted times chosen by the customer.

"“Our time slot based, cost-effective & sustainable inventory based delivery model differentiates us from the rest. We never give false promises on the time of delivery.

"“In fact we let the customer choose the delivery time slot, as per his convenience to economize on the delivery cost.”"

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