Zepto founders on being role models, keeping up with competition, and being quick on the entrepreneurial journ

When he co-founded Zepto Kaivalya Vohra and Aadit Palicha were considered to be India’s youngest (both 20!) self-employed and youngest wealthy individuals, according to the IIFL Wealth Hurun India 2022 Rich List, have become role models for many in the country overnight.

“It’s humbling, but honestly, it’s not something that we end up thinking about every day, because there’s always a bunch of things going on in the business,” Kaivalya said, speaking to host Beverly White on Day Three TechSparks 2022, The largest technology conference for startup companies in India.

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Quick-commerce startup Zepto launched in Mumbai in April 2021 and has witnessed phenomenal growth, with a presence in 10 cities in the form of dark stores or micro warehouses — Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Delhi, Noida, Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata.

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They say that the best founders have real conviction in their idea, and there are no doubts about Kaivalya and Aadit. “The reason we pushed so hard is because we had so much conviction about the product. We believed the product would be exciting and change the way people shop for groceries today, so we were more concerned than our personal progress, making Zepto a bigger player in people’s minds,” said Kaivalya.

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Being young founders who don’t really have decades of experience to fall back on, Aadit said it helps that they’re building a product that no one has done before in an industry that has sprung up in the last 12 to 18 months.

“We understand that in order to perfect this model and this category, we must have a combination of decades of experience, which our leadership team of experts brings with decades of experience in supply chain and growth, marketing and finance, and first-principles thinking, which we bring with our fresh perspectives.”

According to consulting firm RedSeer, the Indian fast-food market is expected to grow 15-fold by 2025, reaching a market size of close to $5.5 billion, and in this battleground, Aadit believes the winners will be people who are able manage the operational impact on the back end.

It is well known that fast-casual players in the industry have to deal not only with growing competition, but also with criticism from all sides that the rush to market could jeopardize the security of delivery partners.

“The reality is that our business model is built on short distances, not high speeds,” Aadit said, adding that their pickup locations across the country are located in densely populated clusters, where the average distance for a delivery person is 1.7 to 1, 8 km.

On where the fast food industry is headed in the next ten years, Aadit said there is potential to build a horizontal fast food and e-commerce company, with grocery alone being larger than all other e-commerce categories combined.

From teenage entrepreneurs who dropped out of Stanford to leading players in the fast-food industry, Kaivalya and Aadit have written a true entrepreneurial success story.

When asked about their mantra for personal success, Kaivalya offers careful advice, stating that they would be better equipped to do so in five to 10 years, but, “Sustaining it is one thing we learned very early on. Entrepreneurship is a journey where the highs are super high and the lows are really low. There were many opportunities for us both to say pack up and go back to university and live a very comfortable life, but we stuck with it.”

Aadit’s advice for entrepreneurs? “If you want to start building a company, build it for the right reasons.” For someone who forgot his phone charger on the way to the airport to attend this conference, and who shipped it through his startup, this advice sounds pretty good.

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