Indian online grocery startup BigBasket raises $60M

Indian grocery startup BigBasket has raised $60 million as it scales its business in the country to meet growing demand from customers stuck at home.

Alibaba and other existing investors including Mirae Asset and CDC Group participated in the bridge-round, Vipul Parekh, co-founder of BigBasket, told TechCrunch in an interview. Parekh said the startup intends to close a larger financing round in the next six to nine months.

The eight-year-old startup, which attained the unicorn status last year, has raised about $720 million in venture capital and debt financing to date, according to CB Insights. Indian news outlet Entrackr first signaled the bridge round.

Parekh said the startup is aggressively trying to hire more delivery staff to service the ever growing demand from customers. New Delhi ordered a nation-wide lockdown last month that has severely disrupted countless businesses.

The volume of orders on BigBasket has surged by up to five times in recent weeks, said Parekh. But the startup is struggling to find enough people to deliver items to customers as many workers have moved to their hometowns or are cautious about working in the current environment, he said.

In the last one week, BigBasket has partnered with Uber and two-wheeler mobility firm Rapido to deliver groceries in select parts of India. The startup, like several others, faced severe challenges last month after the 21-day lockdown was enforced as it worked with local state authorities to continue its delivery operations. At one time, it had over 400,000 inventories sitting at its warehouses that it needed to ship but could not.

BigBasket operates in more than two dozen cities in India and offers tens of thousands of grocery products to customers. As far as securing inventories is concerned, Parekh said the startup is currently not seeing any issues.

BigBasket’s rival, SoftBank-backed Grofers has also seen a surge in volume of orders. The startup said this week that it delivered to 1 million homes in three weeks.

But despite the growth, Grofers co-founder and chief executive Albinder Dhindsa said online grocery still accounts for only 0.2% of the overall retail market. “I think at the end of this crisis we will probably reach 0.5%, but that is still an insignificant share,” he said.

Several startups in India have expanded to grocery category in recent weeks to serve more customers and compensate for the hit their core businesses have taken due to the coronavirus outbreak.