Long before this pandemic, ordering grocery items online had already become popular. Mashrukh Khan, a business consultant by profession, had shifted to online shopping a few years back. But then the pandemic hit this year, and suddenly Mashruk was struggling to make ends meet as his employers cut his salary by half.
"I was suddenly reminded of the time we bought things on credit regularly from the neighbourhood store and paid at the month's end. Something like that would have been so useful now," he said.
And then Mashruk came across this online store which basically offered to do just that, albeit in the virtual world. The online store, Bazar Nao, offers credit packages to customers starting from Tk500.
While the rapid jump in demand for big names in online grocery – Chaldal, Shwapno, MeenaClick – has been well-documented, what has stayed under the radar is the innovative ideas smaller online grocers are introducing to fill in the gaps in the market. While Bazar Nao is offering credit on sales, Hatch has geared their entire service towards providing weekly affordable packages so that people can stay on a budget during these difficult times.
Anusha Chowdhury launched Bazar Nao with the idea of allowing people to buy groceries on credit and pay later – within twenty days of purchase – to make the lives of middle class families a little easier.
"Over the last few months, I did not buy a thing that was unnecessary yet I had to skip out on things. Now I am comfortable to order things in the middle of the month as I can pay on credit," shared Mashrukh.
"Local stores do not provide variety. They do not provide all the goods that a person may obtain from a superstore or different brands. So, customers have to settle for less. With Bazar Nao, you don't have to settle for less and pay more. One will pay only the dues as there are no hidden charges," Anusha said while explaining how Bazar Nao functions.
With Bazar Nao, you don't have to settle for less and pay more. One will pay only the dues as there are no hidden charges
As Bazar Nao does not want to compromise in service, it has made a plan where it offers up to Tk10lakh groceries on credit to customers. Their offered credit packages start from Tk500, which are also customizable by the client.
The credit amount is decided as per customer's monthly expenditures on Bazar Nao. And, this offer is available only to regular and reliable customers. To be a reliable customer, one needs to follow a few rules – filling out a certain form with correct information and then being a regular Bazar Nao customer.
Currently, their operations are limited within Dhaka city to ensure the quality of service. As she is getting an overwhelming response, she is planning to expand the service in the near future.
Anusha shared that a maximum number of customers are comfortable with the cash on delivery payment method, as they are not used to this system, but they also appreciate the credit payment idea.
If any customer defaults, s/he is notified and informed about paying by a certain date. If the customer fails to meet the second deadline then Bazar Nao takes legal action against the individual.
Ordering on websites and apps are not the only grocery options now. Facebook is also a popular platform nowadays. Hatch – a messenger-based weekly grocery platform –started its journey recently. Hatch offers customised packages ranging from Tk 250 to Tk 650 that will address the nutritional needs of a family of four.
Like other recent platforms on Facebook, Hatch hosts the online payment gateway on its page.
Hatch offers fresh vegetables and fruits. When a customer messages Hatch, different weekly plans – ensuring nutrition and taste – are featured on messenger, in a box. And customers can order any of the plans for home delivery within a minute.
Mymuna Rashed, co-founder of Hatch and a pharmacist by training, designs each package based on her understanding of nutritional needs.
"This pandemic has pushed us to launch Hatch earlier than planned. We understood that people are going through problems as maintaining social distance in bazars is not really possible," said Mymuna.
From the start, Hatch stuck to digital payments due to safety issues.
Hatch provides fresh food – even amid this pandemic - at reasonable prices with innovative weekly plans – which is really impressive
It takes one or two days to deliver to customers. Customers need to order goods one day in advance as the service does not do same-day deliveries.
In the weekly vegetable plan, there are four plans ranging from around Tk350 to Tk450. The weekly fruits plan costs within Tk650 and dry grocery plan is only Tk250.
A regular client of Hatch, Mehnaj Tabassum, teacher of Lakehead Grammar School, said, "I could never rely on super shops as their goods are not fresh. On the contrary, Hatch provides fresh food – even amid this pandemic - at reasonable prices with innovative weekly plans – which is really impressive."
Innovation is the way
The pandemic at one end has shut down many fledgling enterprises. But on other hand, it has been a blessing in disguise for some, especially those willing to innovate, such as Hatch and Bazar Nao.
"Paying with bKash is something people do, but credit and debit card penetration is still abysmally low. Buying groceries on credit is usually an expression of fintech, and many fintech applications are seeing the light of the day due to Covid-19, and many more are expected in the coming months and next year. It is an exciting time for sure," he added.