Dunzo’s battle to become India’s ‘Uber of X

“Tap a button, get a ride.” That almost comically simple idea would lead to the origin of Uber in 2008.

Hundreds of startups globally have tried to surf in its wake by positioning themselves as ‘Ubers’.’ Uber for parking’. ‘Uber for dog walkers’. ‘Uber for lawyers’. ‘Uber for ice-cream’. ‘Uber for laundry’. ‘Uber for groceries’.

So much so that ‘Uber for X’ was one of the most dominant startup investment themes for a good many years.

But someone forgot to tell one of those startups—Bengaluru-based Dunzo—that ‘X’ was meant to be a stand-in for something specific. Like you know, coffee. Documents. Meals. Repairs. Medicines. Alcohol.

End of the Dunzo

So Dunzo ended up becoming an ‘Uber for X’. As in, precisely ‘X’!

Look at the following transactions that took place roughly over a month, with just one customer – Rohin Dharmakumar.
16 Nov: A cocoa cappuccino from Starbucks.
15 Nov: Documents dropped off to our accountant’s office.
13 Nov: A can of distilled water, to top up a car’s coolant tank.
6 Nov: An official Macbook repaired.
31 Oct: Downright scary Halloween masks for an eager 7-yo.
19 Oct: Gift bags to distribute Diwali goodies.
13 Oct: Frame a bunch of handpainted tiles from Goa.

Do you see why it’s really the ‘Uber of X’?

With a fanatical fan following and off-the-charts repeat usage, Dunzo is Bengaluru’s best-kept secret. An app-based service that lets you create almost any “task”, then send real people to complete them on your behalf. For a fee, of course.

“If you can press a button and get a cab, then you should be able to press a button and get anything,” says Kabeer Biswas, co-founder of Dunzo. With his own fleet of riders, Biswas wants to be the service that will do anything anyone needs to be done, so long as it’s not illegal.

Having raised only a modest amount of venture funding to date, $2.5 million from Blume Ventures and Aspada Investments, Dunzo is now poised at a growth fork. It wants to expand into more cities, add more tasks to its repertoire and build deeper technical prowess to sustain a perpetual swarm of delivery partners, each one moving seamlessly from one task to another through the day.

But to do that, it needs $40 to $50 million* in funding as a business and up to $10 million for the next round. Serious money, but chump change when considering the folks it is up against—Swiggy, Amazon, Uber, BigBasket; all indirectly its competition.

To-Do – Don’t Forget The Milk

Dunzo takes a short break between 4:30 am and 6:30 am every morning, but it’s in the remaining 22 hours it hums into action. Biswas claims that roughly 100,000 registered users use it for completing about 100,000 tasks a month.

“When the iPhone 7 launched, I think we shipped more orders in the first six hours than Amazon and Flipkart combined as they were shipping it only by the end of the day,” he claims. He means people were asking Dunzo to simply go buy the iPhones from the nearest Apple stores and deliver them to their respective homes.

When Dunzo launched, it set out to do anything a user needed doing. From identifying and sending carpenters and plumbers for repairs to running government-related tasks like passport renewal to applying for pan card. “90% of tasks were of the pick-up and drop variety and only 5% of tasks were government-related transactions. But we were spending too much time on that 5%.”

So, Biswas and his other co-founders are Ankur Aggarwal, Dalvir Suri, and Mukund Jha let the government transactions go. And it made all the difference to the business. “The minute we did that, it changed the way the availability of the partners looked,” says Biswas.

Dunzo’s 1,000 riders today cover nearly 80% of the city now. And it has also been working to cut down the time taken for tasks. From taking 78 minutes to complete a task early this year, it is now down to 45 minutes. This has earned it some very loyal customers as nearly 40-45% of the new users it acquires, stick to it. Some of its power users use it almost eight times a day, while on an average, people use it about three times a month.