Dunzo’s Quest to Dunzo a Unicorn

Last fortnight, Dunzo was in conversations to raise $100MM, bringing it closer to Dunzo everything and become a unicorn.

Just Do It

It was the summer of 2014 when 32 year old ex-Hoppr founder Kabeer Biswas was sitting in a Bangalore restaurant.

He thought to himself – what if there was someone who could complete a set of tasks for you, anywhere and anytime?

His Whatsapp was open in front of him, populated with messages from everyone ranging from his lawyer to his milkman, and it was in that moment that he realized he was looking at India’s most wide-reaching business tool. 

Now all he needed was to build a marketplace. 

Fortuitously, during the sale of his first company to messaging service Hike, Kabeer crossed paths with Mukund Jha and Ankur Aggarwal. Both were looking to reignite their entrepreneurial fire after a few failed enterprise focused startups and had actually started a similar service to Dunzo in Wingman. 

The two sets of founders believed that there was value in combining Mukund and Ankur’s technical prowess with Kabeer’s operational abilities.

Dunzo had found its Wingmen.

Because You’re Worth It

The value proposition was simple – people are busy and shouldn’t need to spend their time doing mundane tasks. 

Time is limited, work is unlimited – so why not have a personal concierge who can do everything in your life that you don’t want to? 

Ben Franklin once remarked, “Time is money”, and that is the crux. 

Dunzo recognised that urban India places a ‘premium’ on its time and would be willing to pay a fee for outsourcing mundane tasks. Lack of time is the biggest constraint people face in big cities.

While some earlier apps solved for the lack of complete information in consumer markets by enabling price/location discovery, Dunzo took this a step further by integrating local discovery with local task fulfilment. 

At its core, it enabled urban India to do the tasks on their to-do list.

For better or for worse, it was this clear problem statement that made the space Dunzo was trying to enter a very crowded one. Locally, there were much larger and better funded companies like Urban Clap aiming to provide of Dunzo’s service.

Similarly, there were dedicated solutions like Big Basket for groceries and venture-backed food and everything else services like Scootsy that held a big part of the pie. What was Dunzo’s competitive advantage? 

Obsession with customer experience. 

Impossible is Nothing

As we’ve been witness to, a far superior customer experience oftentimes is enough to establish a clear product-market fit. 

Take communications platform Slack or enterprise video service Zoom for example – take a market in which the current product offerings are just about good enough, and then build a service that is better. 

What do you get? A chat application worth $15B and a video platform worth $25B. 

With this in mind, Dunzo was clear about its mission. A 2016 blog post summarises it perfectly by saying that once a customer has raised a task, Dunzo will do everything “on heaven and earth” to complete it. Even if that means full-time employees jump on a bike and do it themselves. 

Clearly, it worked. 

Users of the app were taking to social media to praise this service that was making an increasingly crowded Bangalore seem like a happier place to live in.

From providing patients with emergency tablets at midnight to grabbing a pen from a local store if you walked into your examination hall without one, Dunzo was becoming an integral part of the ecosystem that they existed in. 

The massive demand made Dunzo migrate to a full stack solution. 

Where’d You Want to Go Today?

As Dunzo migrated from a WhatsApp group to an app based service, it started scaling up its delivery fleet and partnering with neighbourhood stores to set up robust local machinery. 

In this process, its expenditure grew by more than 5 times from INR 2 Cr to INR 11.3 Cr. 

The explosion of expenditure was accompanied by a net sales rise of more than 100X. From a meagre INR 70,000 ($1K) in FY16, it clocked INR 98.5 lakhs ($140K) in FY17.

What is more surprising is that they incurred zero marketing costs in winning this growing pool of loyal customers. You know a service is ingrained deep within people’s lives when it becomes a verb.

For most ecommerce companies, getting hold of high lifetime value (LTV) customers without any customer acquisition cost (CAC) would happen only in a utopian world. 

Though Dunzo posted strong metrics at the close of FY17, the company had started foreseeing signs of an impending storm much earlier. 

Citi Never Sleeps

Throughout 2016, demand grew aggressively but could not be matched with rise in supply.

In July 2016, Mr. Biswas wrote an email to all the customers, regretting the company’s inability to run errands for two months. Though it got help from its existing investors, it was in need of growth capital, and soon.

2017 turned out to be one of the most challenging years for Mr. Biswas. 

Investors were still recovering from the aftermath of the shutdown of a series of heavily funded hyperlocal startups. Riddled with poor unit economics, hyperlocal startups had no option but to fold up or pivot, like Grofers that shifted to an inventory led model. 

A delivery rider in this market was paid INR 600 a day on average while even with the most optimised hyperlocal use case of food delivery, Dunzo made around INR 50 per order. 

This implied that the rider needed about 12 rides to breakeven. This is possible in small pockets of high order density but becomes increasingly difficult with greater distances. 

After 6 months of being turned down by every investor in the country, all Mr. Biswas had in September 2017 was a couple of acquisition offers. However, the founders were not willing to exit at this stage.

As they say, fortune favours the bold.

Think Small

Long before Dunzo got verb-ified, which other tech company became a commonly used verb across the globe? 

Why not Google the answer. 

This however is not the only connection the two shared. The internet search giant was then strengthening its Next Billion Users programme in India, supporting any product or service targeted at promoting internet usage among the yet-untapped population. 

In December 2017, Google led a USD 12MM investment in Dunzo, its first ever direct investment in an Indian startup. 

The fact that this did not come from the investment arm of Google highlighted that the search giants had a business interest in the company. 

It is not surprising for a search engine to be interested in aggregating local information generated in one of the largest emerging, yet unorganized, economies. Dunzo generated a large amount of local transactional data which was extremely beneficial for Google in a country that had a thin stock of online product data.

But was Google not wary of the fate of other hyperlocal startups in India? 

No, because Dunzo was different. 

Think Different

Unlike its peers that mainly copied the US model of vertical-focused delivery startups, i.e. focusing on only food/grocery/medicines, Dunzo was a horizontal platform. 

What its competitors did not realise was that the average order value in India was significantly smaller than in the US. Thus, operating in a single vertical had a negative impact on economics.

Its focus on anything and everything allowed it to give shape to a sticky customer habit. High stickiness resulted in more repeat transactions that also generated valuable demand data.

With greater number of deliveries, the delivery charge it earned was sufficient to overcome the logistics costs, leading it to achieve positive unit economics in October 2017. Starting from just a hyperlocal personal task management platform it has become a full-fledged automated app-based service. Its fanatical focus on reducing completion friction consequently reduced the cost per transaction. 

This was a strong differentiator for Dunzo when compared to the rest in the cohort, and its focus is driven by how it makes money.

Dunzo’s revenue originates from two sources. One is a fee to the customer for services such as home repairs and pick and drop and a 7-8% commission earned from the merchants.

Both channels are price-sensitive and required a balance that is tricky to maintain for most ecommerce companies. Indian consumers, unlike the US, are still new to the concept of a convenience fee. The merchants were mainly the not-so lavish mom and pop stores.  

It attempted to maintain a reasonable price band and focused on driving down costs to improve profitability and achieve scale. 

A lot of this was driven through its highly tech-driven approach to predict demand and supply, and Dunzo reaped the benefits.

Everywhere Where You Want To Be

The year has started on an explosive note for Dunzo, after a hilarious year-end report on what people got delivered the most (ironically, contraceptives)

It is sprinting to expand to newer markets and foraying into B2B. In just this year, it is set to raise $60MM from a clutch of new and existing investors in its Series C round and looking to raise $100MM in its Series D round by early next year. 

In the last 18 months, it has witnessed a 30x growth from 60K to 2MM transactions monthly. 

It did about 2MM orders in Jun 2019 with Bangalore contributing 40% to it. With an average order value of ~INR 100 ($1.5), the estimated revenue run rate of the company is $3MM per month, or $36MM per year. From just $1MM just 2 years back, it plans to scale to 8MM monthly transactions, or a $100MM revenue run rate.

A recent foray into B2B offerings, ‘Dunzo for Business’ will help it achieve these ambitious targets. It has already partnered with 1,000+ companies for this which include Lenskart, CRED, Bounce and Decathlon. 

100x growth would be any startup’s dream. 

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Dunzo has increased its visibility in its quest to become a verb.

During the 2019 World Cup, brands such as Puma leveraged Dunzo to allow users to get their hands on limited edition pairs of One8 golden spikes worn by Virat Kohli. It also tied up with Xiaomi to allow their latest release Note 7 to be dispatched for instant delivery.

Such retailers would now be able to deliver goods ordered from their websites to customers via Dunzo delivery partners through our new feature — Checkout with Dunzo,”

Co-founder and CEO Kabeer Biswas

The ultimate future vision is to reach from Point A to Point B in 30 minutes at $0.50. Inevitably as with any fast-growing startup, challenges do abound. 

The biggest one is Swiggy. As I detailed earlier, Swiggy has been battling for your doorstep and launched Swiggy Stores launched earlier this year. With a massive war chest of $1.5Bn, it has the potential to simply out-capitalize Dunzo. 

But like it faced its previous challenges, Dunzo can leverage its strong experience to keep battling.

Just ‘Dunzo’ it is fast becoming a verb and with the company focused on rebranding it only looks northward up for the company. Expanding use cases and being able to create a ‘cult’ following will give firepower to Dunzo. The fact that Swiggy will have to shed its “food delivery only” use case is an advantage for Dunzo’s “just about everything”.

As Dunzo plays David to Swiggy’s Goliath, users will reap the benefits of the best verb winning.

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