BigBasket, hum aapkein hai kaun?

There is probably no app I use more than BigBasket. Yes, you are probably thinking “Single guy, does he ever cook? What does he shop from BigBasket? Coke?”. And that was true until 6 months. Now I do order vegetables and stuff from BigB, a lot of them. It used to be Swiggy until 6 months ago but now Swiggy has been replaced by BigBasket.

And that’s when it’s flaws have become evident and by far all of them stem from their inability/refusal to listen to the customer.

Warehousing issues

My two biggest problems with them recently have been — items covered in dust ostensibly because they gathered dust in their warehouse and secondly delivering product that are near, if not past, their expiry date. I have received products that are 18 months old and BigBasket has been kind enough to take a return, no question asked. Good BigB. I have provided feedback to them a couple of times on both the issues — old products and products covered with dust. But it still keeps happening. Bad BigB. I don’t know how they will solve these problems but I sure don’t like to wipe all my products with cloth after every purchase while also checking their expiry date

Data ignorance

Now I have been a BigB customer for over 3 years and they know how often and what I buy, which brand, what quantity. They know, or ought to know, how long a 5 kg packet of rice or a 200ml bottle of shampoo lasts in my house. And yet when I place a order on their site, their suggestions are either the most common items that I buy or items from my last order. Now BigB, why would I need to order 2 kilos of potato again in 5 days? This is the age of data. Companies are using data to gain every advantage against their competitors and yet you just let all that data sit idle? That’s a crying shame.

If you used that data properly, you would just know how long each items lasts in my house (5kg rice every 3 months, potatoes every 3–4 weeks, body wash lasts 2 months etc) but a lot lot more. Just look at retails stores like Target and what they are doing with data. For instance, if you see I have started ordering more green veggies and less potatoes, you could figure out that I am dieting. Now with that information, you could suggest me related stuff like brocolli, supplements and even hand sanitizer, something people often use at the gym.

And of course you can use that data to get ad revenue. Heck, you can help your partner brands to send new free product samples to exactly the right customer by diving into your customer data (and with due regard to their privacy obviously). Because of the nature of your business, you have far granular and accurate data than any brick and mortar retail store in the country. Make use of it.

Knowing your customer

A couple of months ago BigB delivered me a bag of rice that had insects in it. Because there were insects, I threw the bag and asked for a refund or replacement. BigBasket initially said they can’t provide a refund/replacement because I threw away the bag. While I completely understand their concern here, I felt a bit insulted because some guy in BigBasket thinks that I, a customer who has been buying exclusively from them (I rarely go to retail stores) for over 3 years, is lying to score a Rs 400 bag of rice. They did refund me after I reminded them how long I have been a customer and I am deeply grateful for the prompt action thereafter. But did I really have to go through all that? Wouldn’t a quick check at my account on their end revealed that this guy is very likely not lying?

And then during demonetization, my orders were either delayed, had missing items (which BigBasket had informed me a couple of hours before delivery) or worst of all, my delivery slot was changed without informing me. Forsaking your old customers for new ones, who will probably go back to buying from kirana stores soon, is a double edged sword. Sure you get new customers but you lose the trust of the old ones and they would be happy to switch once another competitor comes along. I know I will, provided the customer service is better.

Despite all that, their customer service is definitely prompt. I will give them that

Templatized Social Media presence

How can I give an order ID for an order that I can’t place because the item is out of stock? I rest my case.


BigBasket is a new age company but seems to thinks slightly (not entirely) like the retail stores of yore. They have great discounts, stock the right products all the time (except whipping cream and bacon which are usually unavailable) and are frugal but don’t listen to customer feedback. Its not that they don’t understand customer needs, they do. But they don’t go much beyond it. The buzzword today is “customer delight”, and while I have been always satisfied with BigBasket, I have rarely ever been delighted.

Some of it probably has to do with their leadership structure- they are largely veterans of the retail and FMCG world. These sectors don’t require responsive customer service (they do obviously require understanding the customer which BigB does well). These sectors also don’t require data science to the extent Silicon Valley and Indian tech startups use. And a LinkedIn search (albeit imperfect) tells me they have less than a handful of people doing Data Science for them. It might do them well to look into the ethos of customer responsive companies of the digital age. Customers today expect a lot more and they are very vocal about any displeasure. Heck some of these pesky customers even end up writing a huge ass post on Medium.

Here is the thing BigBasket, you have the right business model, unlike Grofers which buys from retailstores thereby foregoing the massive discounts that wholesalers and distributors get while also assuming the transportation cost of delivering product to the customer, often in smaller batches. BigBasket can cut out, not just the retailer but also the wholesaler on one end and also bundle multiple orders to save costs at the other end, because it invested in a warehouse. Now you just need to get to be more responsive to customers.

So BigB, hum aapke hai kaun? Are we in a serious long term relationship or are we into a short term chicken & ham thank you for the groceries ma’am kinda relationship?


Why interning at a startup would be a bad idea for bschool grads

Why interning at a startup would be a bad idea for bschool grads

Just read this ( at where the author, Bhavya Sahani, tries to make a case for the idea of b-school grads interning at startups.


The author basically says that interning at a startup would help a relatively inexperienced student discover his/her core strength instead of going for the popular choice. He of the opinion that the more experienced students at a bschool (and most Indian bschools have relatively inexperienced students. I myself have no work experience) would have a better idea of their strengths and tend to not follow the herd when making career decisions while the inexperienced ones never get to figure out their core competency. While I agree that experienced students do show more maturity in making career decisions, it is not uncommon for an IT guy ending up with a job in a pure marketing role at an FMCG firm. It is also possible that the experienced students are so accustomed to their prior field that they there is an inertia against trying something new (though admittedly I haven’t seen that happening with students in my batch).

MBA (more so General Management which is what is offered by the IIMs), is one of those occasions in one’s career where one can make a drastic move, and rediscover one’s core competencies. Just because you joined an IT or energy firm right after engineering, where choices are limited, does not mean you have to necessarily stick with it. Besides, even after 3-4 years of work ex after undergrad one hardly gets to experience a broad spectrum of roles to be able to make a proper choice about one’s core competencies. One works within a relatively rigid set of parameters on a very specific role, hardly gets to interact with client much less drive client engagement. But the first year of MBA helps one discover what they like – I thought I could not like anything other than Operations but my favourite subjects have been those in Economics and Marketing while others who thought they would not be able to stand anything other than Finance were happy to take up Consulting or General Management(well to be frank the lack luster hiring by I-banks do have a role to play here).

So why can’t a startup internship help one figure out their core competency? Simply put, an 2 month internship just wont be enough. Startups are too chaotic and unstructured for one to figure things out fast. Continue reading