The ongoing lockdown in the country, on account of the Covid-19 pandemic, severely tested the resilience of the country's largest online grocery platform BigBasket. For days after the lockdown was imposed, the Bengaluru headquartered company struggled to keep operations going even as demand for essentials, especially groceries, escalated to unprecedented levels.
In a candid interview with TechCircle, BigBasket co-founder and CEO Hari Menon spoke about what happened behind the scenes in the first three weeks just after the nationwide lockdown was imposed.
While the company’s supply chains and warehousing capabilities were well equipped to cope with the crisis, an unanticipated people problem brought its operations to a near standstill. Around 80% of the company's 13,000 strong labour force left for their hometowns across the country, leaving the e-grocer stranded with lakhs of orders it could not deliver in the 26 big cities in which it operates.
Not surprisingly, customers were unhappy with the slow delivery and cancelled orders and the angst found expression in a severe backlash on social media platforms that compelled the usually low-key Menon to take to Twitter to explain why BigBasket buckled under pressure.
After the initial problems with the onset of the lockdown, Alibaba-backed BigBasket moved fast to recruit around 9,000 people. From 1.5 lakh orders a day before the Covid-19 crisis, it has picked up the pace to deliver 3.2 lakh orders a day.
Menon, an industry veteran, previously ran retail chain Trinethra, which was acquired by Aditya Birla Group backed More in 2007. Amazon later acquired More through Samara Capital in 2008.
Watch the first of a two-part interview with Menon in which he recounts the first three weeks of the lockdown at BigBasket, how the company got back on its feet and lessons from the early experience.