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PepperTap: Good bye! You won’t be missed.

 

 

Awarded the

“RodinStar” Post 

of the week!!

 

Over the entire weekend the talk of the town was the “PepperTap Shutdown”. 

Even those who think thrice before writing a leave application to their bosses, were found giving entrepreneurship and decision-making lessons to Navneet Singh, PepperTap management and their investors.

Quora was buzzing with what’s wrong in the Indian startup ecosystem and things to learn from this failure. FB and twitter were full of trolls. 

While most readers were found criticizing PepperTap, there were few that even showed some support.

One crazy guy even had a very weird suggestion of a Free Trial for Navneet & Team (I think his spam comment is still alive @yourstory)


But one thing I found missing in all the conversations (including the article by Navneet) was

“Customer’s Point Of View”,     

“How are they feeling about it”

None of the writers came forward and tried to give their views as a direct consumer. In fact, all they were found doing was picking and bashing his statements.

To some extent they were right too…

Did anybody from PepperTap just go back to even to half of these 37,000 consumers that ordered from them on their best day and ask them will they be missing them?

Answer: NO!

Frankly, I am no one to question PepperTap’s strategy & mantra for their quick growth and even a quicker failure becauseI feel that these guys are quite senior to me in terms of age, experience and BMI. 😀

But surely I would like to add few words as a consumer on this.

My Details:

I am a tech savvy young entrepreneur. Love to use apps. Lived in Delhi, Chandigarh & Gurgaon and buying groceries from about 20 years now (earlier with my parents as a porter and now myself).

So I would like to talk about three points here that I fail to understand as a customer in PepperTap’s Plan:

Buying Experience

Delivery

Customer Preference

1. Buying Experience:

Buying something, especially produce is an experience that is totally different from buying an iPhone or clothes. (Customer reviews and that TAP doesn’t always get you ticking with these.)

From buzzing subzi mandis where a customer walks with fixed cash in hand and decides what and where to buy based on: 

    • The louder and craziest rhythm in the sabziwala’s (green grocer’s) voice
    • Complementary Dhaniya
    • Flexibility to negotiate 2 bucks per kg  

And where he shops till his fingers almost get broken and get serious blood clots due to polybags he carries.

To the super stores that have ACs puking cold air at you, kids jumping, aunties having board meetings over the quality of shimla mirch and store guys who are always doing stock audits and arrangements (always… I mean ALWAYS, I’ve never seen one with folded hands at back to help you even when you look confused) where

    • Slashed price tag
    • Sodexo coupons
    • Crazy Bundles (2+1 on Namkeen, Toilet Cleaner + Floor Cleaner + Vim etc.)
    • Credit Card limit
    • Wife’s Preference (If you are married)

makes you add more products to your trolley.

It is not money or discount or ease of buying at one place that gets you to buy products. It’s the complete experience that counts. The experience that even convinces you to happily pay for carry-bags.

Your app failed to replicate/improve that experience.

2. Delivery:

My Case:

Last year I was walking out of Huda City Metro Station and saw a PepperTap ad saying (if I remember correctly) something like

“No More Queues, get your groceries delivered at home just with a tap”.

I took my phone out to ask my wife if I need to bring anything while coming, there was a “things to bring” list from my wife on whatsapp already.

I just copied and forward it to ‘Balaji store’ the nearest grocery store to my house (I recalled that I had their number saved & they take orders on whatsapp only after seeing the PepperTap billboard; as I used to see PepperTap’s van standing and driver smoking beedi there).

pepprtap

I came down to the parking lot, took my car and reached home and the delivery guy on cycle just reached along with me. How fast is that?

Delivery Time: Hardly 15 Minutes,

Reverse Logistics: Instant (Optional)

Credit Limit: Bhaiya agli baar dukan pai de dena. Nahin to khate mein daal dengey.

(Either pay next time at the shop or we will add it to your monthly account)

I was thinking: Why didn’t you give this guy a PepperTap tshirt instead of buying a van and creating a fleet…?

My Mom’s Case:

My mom uses a smartphone; two of her favorite things online are wishing good morning to all on whatsapp and reading about her friends on facebook including wishing them on their birthdays. 

My parents live in our family home in Delhi. So on a weekend visit while having chai, I told mom about this app that can get groceries at discounted rates at home.

She was not even interested a bit in the topic and continued with her discussion.

So now I turned my laptop towards her, opened the website (I don’t remember exactly which grocery shopping site it was as they all became big together) and started showing her.

Her response, “ How can you buy vegetables watching just a picture? It’s all time waste. Our vegetable cart guy gets them delivered at our doorstep and they don’t charge for delivery too. If they are making 5 bucks extra it’s their right.

When you can spend extra money at the food court and then pay endless taxes over it, we can spend Rs.5 per order too.”  

Silence…

I left laptop as it is, took a teaspoon of namkeen. And nodded saying “Makes Sense”.

Actually, these guys are superheroes for my parents. They sometimes even arrange the veggies in our fridge while dropping them to our kitchen and have a visibility of stock for the entire week. In fact, they don’t even refrain from suggesting what we should be eating or suggesting “fruit/vegetable” of the week. They have been doing this for about over 11 years now.

I was thinking: Why didn’t you get their cart painted in PepperTap colors instead? They have more power to convince my mother than me on monthly supplies!

3. Customer Preference

Buying groceries and then creating something out of them includes a lot of preferences:

Taste Preference(s):  Oily, Spicy, Light etc. etc.

Regional background: Did you have different plans for Punjabi & South Indian families living in Delhi?

A free surprise butter cube or lassi pack on Sunday could have got me coming back to your app for an entire month being a Punjabi.  

       3. Distance From Nearest Store: It matters whether you are living in Sector 46 or Sector 82 in Gurgaon.

       4. Daily Schedule: When I was in Chandigarh I had a commuting time of 5 minutes from my home to office. So I had time to check out even three grocery stores to buy just my favorite shampoo. In Delhi it took me 1.5 hours one way to Gurgaon so I had no time to buy groceries, till I shifted to Gurgaon finally.  (May be that’s the reason that people in 2nd/3rd tier cities don’t need an app at all for time saving!) 

         5.  Decision Maker:  Husband/Wife/ Servant/ Cook

         6.  Daily Calorie Preference:  From fitness freaks to foodies

    And there could be 10 more points you could add to it.

    I think being in the digital business, this is where your money should have gone. 

    This would have been the strength of your business (not the discounts)

    The data: The App

    • The App that suggests calorie intake to cooking suggestions.
    • The App that auto adjusts budgets for last days of the month and adds most used products for free rather than offering everyday discounts.
    • The app that hosts Sanjeev Kapoor’s Webinar and all those ingredients can now be added to the cart with a single tap in suggested quantity.

      This was a factor where I see scalability and value as a consumer.  

Gupta ji of Balaji store already had the records of our monthly spend and preferences in his textbook.

PepperTap just needed to take it deeper with their IIT/IIM analytics skills.

And then could have used it for custom targeting of consumers and wished my mom happy birthday on facebook. (she would remember them for the entire year – who wished and who didn’t!)

But sadly that never happened.

In the end I would say, there might be a few things of all the above that you have already thought over/did/attempted when this was alive,

But as a grocery buyer,

I really doubt that if you will ever be missed and you leave this ecosystem with a void.  

Best of luck for your old business.  

First Published on: Apr 26, 2016

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35 Comments

  1. vaibhav,

    welcome to therodinhoods!

    this is such an interesting debut post – your post has something so genuine about it – i’m sure any person who buys veggies/groceries can relate to it!

    right from the free dhaniya (this is only a typical north indian phenomenon – in goa we pay 20-30 rs per bunch – YES!), to the way your mom reacted (my mom in law lives in south delhi and her sabzi wala also delivers after she goes for her morning walk and selects what she wants!).

    what i loved is not only your observations, but all the suggestions you have offered peppertap. 

    i don’t know if they would be missed or not, i just wish every startup would listen to their customers (like you) and keep solving the customers’ problems in every possible way. a biz shutting down is never a pleasant news to read (especially since i know a few rodinhooders who worked there) – but i really really appreciate your (customer’s) perspective. 

    keep sharing such feedback & ideas – you never know you could end up helping someone’s venture!

  2. Thanks asha

  3. WOW !!! Vaibhav .. thumbs up for such an interesting and customer centric post. 

    PS : Unknowingly you ended up promoting Tolexo, instead of Sodexo 😉

  4. hey thanks mayank – i read that i told myself it needs to be corrected and then it slipped my mind! corrected now 🙂

  5. Thanks Asha… for the same. 

  6. Thanks Mayank for your comment and bringing the correction out.

    Cheers 

  7. Vaibhav – great post and insights.

    The current players in the grocery space do not offer the loyalty of Guptaji, which is what my startup – http://healthseeker.in is trying to create by way of personalization and subscriptions.

  8. Well written RHer…

  9. Thanks

  10.  Zeeshan this is Interesting, That word ” Inflation Free Grocery”  is cooler than Interest Free EMI.  

    Gets me thinking Prima Facie, Our Finance minister should hire you.  Need to study Faq’s on your site though. 😀

  11. 🙂 That was the idea of the Ration Shops, to give curated and subsidies foodgrains to every citizen based on his ration card. I am just digitizing and extending the same 🙂

    The product / site is still being built, feedback/brickbats.

    Thanks.

  12. I really appreciate the way this article has been written, good job man.

  13. Interesting Read. Vaibhav. Keep ’em coming.
    Yes, the grocery apps are still not solving anything. 

  14. I love your article and customer view is crucial which is missing, and your input is valuable. 

  15. Interesting point of view ! Agreed on most of them 🙂

  16. Hi Alok

    Thanks for sharing this…

    Superbly written, analysed and reproduced in perspective. I completely agree about improving customer experience and adding value at each touch point. My initial experience with Pepper Tap was brilliant and I somehow felt that here;s a brand which is a war horse and will stand tall in times. As one of initial loyal customers I feel saddened that the brand has fallen by the way side.

    My only point of disagreement is the headline- I would certainly miss PepperTap and as a promising new kid on the block it might have taught lot of lessons before setting into oblivion.

    PepperTap you would be missed!!!!   

  17. Thanks Salil

  18. Thanks G M

  19. Thanks Yogesh

  20. A Costly but a valuable lesson.. :D. 

    Thanks Animesh for your comment. 

  21. One of the most enjoyable things i read off late.  🙂

    >> PepperTap just needed to take it deeper with their IIT/IIM analytics skills.
    This one was nasty.

    Agree fully with you and  Puneet Nirogam Aggarwal. The problem is missing in these ‘solutions’

  22. Truly impressive! Hope to see your analysis of other consumer service startups too like the home service guys!   By the way the APP and the level of Service would not have been the primary reason for the collapse. The others out there are no different … Grofers, ZIP.in, ZopNow,  BigBasket (except the fact that BB has better control on quality, being inventory led) 

  23. I definitely will miss Peppertap.  I do not buy many of the arguments in this article as all apps cover the basics and offer decent width and depth of goods which is needed by a family. Author forgets that people have moved or trying to move on from what their parents were doing and shopping.

    I stay in Western Suburbs in Mumbai and one of the biggest hypermarket Hypercity is 10 minute walking distance from my house.

    I have been doing grocery shopping for donkey’s years. My wife does not know what each things cost and whenever she buys anything it is either wrong or costly product. I extensively started using hyperlocal sites in general and Pepperatp in specific last year.

    In my opinion advantage of hyper local sites are:

    1) In large cities like Mumbai we are pressed for time . For many Grocery shopping is no fun and they think it as a tedious job. Families where both husband wife are working are really pressed for time and hate grocery shopping. One can purchase on these apps while sitting in meeting, loo, car, office practically anywhere and get the goods delivered on scheduled time. They save at least one to two hours per purchase.

    2) Travell: Again in cities small distances can take large time. For people who spend upto 2 hours in travel daily, it makes sense to save time on shopping.

    3) Parking charges: Every mall charges 20-30 Rs parking. If one is taking auto then minimum fare is 18 Rs. Thus a family spends at least 30-35 Rs. per shopping . All this is saved.

    4) Variety of Fruts and Vegetables: Hypermarkets like Hypercity which have tied up with these sites stock large varieties F & V including exotic vegetables. One cannot get they in vegetable market. People of new generation (i.e. those not from mother’s generation) do not love haggling and are OK with packed fruits and vegetables offered by sites. They are also Ok to pay slightly higher price.

    All 4 are valid for my family and also for many families in big cities. Apps like PepperTap are boon for them. They are ready to sacrifice free Dhania for the convenience of professional and convenient shopping. And their numbers are growing. Hyperlocal apps may not work in small cities where people have lot of time, distances are small and grocery shopping is sort of get together for bahus. But in cities it makes immense sense. So being from Mumbai yes I miss PepperTap. And I have shifted to Zopnow..before it closes. Then probably Groffers..

    If it was so good why did it close?

    Simple. Its business model never made any sense. I worked in Reliance Retail in initial 3 years and so realised one thing that if one cannot make money on paper, one cannot make money at all. Plans of PepperTap and their cost structure never made sense. When Hypermarkets have waferthin margins ( all successfull chains have EBITDA margins around 5 %) none was ready to share it with them. One reason was apps were not bringing new customers but converting physical customers online. And when average order size was less than 500 Rs. it was always going to be difficult to justify delivery costs. PepperTap was just one of the casualty waiting to happen.

  24. I’ve never bought vegetables in my life & have never even seen them enter my house (dunno where and when they arrive) &  I was very very intrigued by this write up!

    Believe it or not, I asked a few guys on the office floor about the ‘dhaniya’ “Value Add” and these folks (some earning 20 lacs+ per annum) said “Yes Alok, the free dhaniya is a killer”

    Dude – you write so well and obviously obsserve even better! Can we make you the official “Undercover Rodinhood” who reports on things (even before they fail or succeed)?!

    Will be awesome!

  25. Thanks Alok.. For Taking Time to go through it and a positive comment. It means a lot. 

    Sure would love to be a ” Undercover Rodinhood” it will be actually a 2X (hustle and Fun).

    Though i am still learning the art of doing business as a Non- MBA first generation entrepreneur. 😀

    What i love to see and observe in every business is the ” Indian-ness ” of it.  It’s great to see that a country that has always served (pre- post independence) to rulers and politicians & govt. is shifting towards creating ventures. 

    This revolution is something that excites me to be a part of it. Let’s see how it goes. 

    Regards

  26.  

    Dude i agree to your views considering your situation and preference .  But criticizing your wife’s Shopping skills on a public forum is a bigger risk then what Pepper-tap investors took :D.  

    Hope you had a nice weekend and she never read this. 

    Cheers !

  27. your sense of humour is wicked vaibhav!!

  28. I think it (wickedness) has all to do with marriage and a gorgeous wife. 😀 😀 :D. ( Working from home today) . 

  29. hey vaibhav,

    i think everyone has appreciated the way you’ve shared your observations in such a detailed and candid way. 

    i just had to ruin the top of your post 🙂

  30. Thanks Asha & TRH…. It’s enough motivation for me to work my weekend to write another post for the forum.

    Thanks again. 

  31. Well Vaibhav. While your article is well researched and well written, you’ve forgotten to include an important ingredient of humanity i.e. solidarity. There are steaks of nastiness and meanness in your article…. not nice buddy. Not Nice.

    Whoever the promoters of Peppertap may have been, they had the gumption, the courage and the will power to create something from scratch. Some fail despite best efforts and some succeed just because their raashi is good. It is not nice to kick someone who is already down. Grow up.

  32. This is really an eye-opener post for all who get an idea .. make an app .. find a co-founder and then put post across facebook and google to promote .. without having an inch idea about what consumer wants.

    Very well written …

  33. Hi Vaibhav,

    Your post was one of the most read articles on therodinhoods.com and we are happy to have featured it again on the home page! Check out – http://therodinhoods.com and congrats!

  34. Vaibhav; this post makes a good ‘Case Study on PepperTap’ for ‘Consumer Behavior’ subject of MBA colleges. Great post. Kudos !

  35. While all good things aside, as mentioned above by others, the key and subtle message here is obsering skills that all entrepreneues need. That is the single biggest asses in building a customer happiness factor in any startup.
    Clearly this post will suit all future startups in B2C..
    Thank you for writing this up!

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