Like clockwork, Gyanendra Jha’s eyes open at 1 am when he steps out of his Thane warehouse full of sorted vegetables and heads for the APMC market. There, Jha negotiates his way through the fresh nocturnal haul of greens, avoids the sliced pumpkins that have been touched by vendors while cutting and returns by 8 am to help his staff make 200 deliveries.
Jha is the COO of Bhajiwala.com, a vegetable delivery service that shut shop last year when prices shot up and reopened in May this year, with requests during lockdown.
Heavy demand has had Jha double up as a deliveryman at times and got him pining for his baby son. Yet, he does not utter a word of complaint. “I know what joblessness feels like. So, I am happy to be busy,” says Jha, whose thriving business just got its own app.
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There is now a deluge of fledgling delivery firms that are bringing a variety of perishables within hours of ordering. The surge in demand for home deliveries of perishables has seen many vendors grow technically savvy to survive and thrive during the crisis.
The Fresh Press (TFP), a startup that sold fresh juices, realised they had an opportunity to diversify when the lockdown was announced. “We have reliable sources for procuring fruits and decided to go one step further and start selling them,” says TFP founder Rahul Jain.
The startup joined hands with some housing societies in north Mumbai and put up fruit stalls on their premises. In three months, business has done so well that they are roping in a Bollywood actor to be their brand ambassador.
Like TFP, Mahesh Gawde’s doorstep fish delivery service, too, operates completely over WhatsApp. A member of the All India Game Fishing Association, Gawde has been engaged in fishing as a hobby for a decade. But he took up fish-selling as a full time occupation only after work at a firm, where he worked as a digital imaging technician, dried up.
Now, his fish business is doing so well that Gawde is looking for a successor to take over, once he gets to go back to work at the firm again.
Gawde’s day starts at 3 am as he buys fish in auctions conducted by fishermen’s associations. By 6 am, he starts stocking the fish in ice. “If the prawns aren’t chilled enough, they turn black and fetch less money,” said Gawde. He sends across a list to customers over WhatsApp. The fish is then packed and delivered to the customers’ doorstep. From 25 customers initially, Gawde has gone up to 150 in three months.
(This story is part of a series in association with Facebook. Facebook has no editorial role in this story)