Canada’s online stores for Indian grocery seek to cash in on growing demand
Apniroots is part of a trend and the first end-to-end platform of its kind in Canada with an extensive inventory, though smaller outlets, often extensions of brick-and-mortar stores, have also brought the online shopping experience to groceries in Canada, emulating what is already established in neighbouring US.Updated: Feb 03, 2018 23:41 IST
During the severe winter in Canada, venturing out is an adventure for many. But for one startup in the Greater Toronto Area, the extreme weather is an opportunity. “With adverse weather here, our business model works well. We have four months when other businesses slow down, ours will peak,” said Gurmeet Singh, the co-founder of the new company apniroots.com, launched in Toronto in the summer of 2017.
Besides online ordering and delivery of Indian groceries covering a large swath of the GTA and the province of Ontario, apniroots.com also sends products via post to customers outside the delivery region.
Their website lists Desi staples like rice, atta, dals, pickles, or ready-to-eat South Indian meals like masala dosas, as well as pao bhaji and lassi.
New Delhi-born Gurmeet Singh, better known as Gary, saw various factors dictating the need for filling the evident vacuum in this space: Convenient delivery of groceries ordered online.
The resident of the Toronto suburb of Brampton noticed that Indian stores selling groceries were “overpopulated” and owners “often didn’t seem to care” about service. Also, mainstream chains like WalMart, Metro or NoFrills have seen “increasing shelving” of Indian groceries, a pointer to the growing demand, as the Indo-Canadian population in the country nears 1.8 million, of which two-thirds live in Ontario.
“But they are not able to service very niche items and we have an edge on this,” Singh said.
New immigrants from India are also often used to the “experience of online ordering in metropolitan India”, which wasn’t really available in Canada. “We’re filling the gap,” he said. In addition, many of these newcomers often don’t possess vehicles or have valid licenses, making the task to lugging a 10 pound bag of basmati rice home onerous. That’s one reason the early advertising campaign for apniroots has included displays in transit in Toronto and the GTA.
With Amazon acquiring Whole Foods and Instacart arriving in Canada, Singh believes this space will expand in the near future, and there will be many more Indo-Canadians among the early adopters.
Apniroots is part of a trend and the first end-to-end platform of its kind in Canada with an extensive inventory, though smaller outlets, often extensions of brick-and-mortar stores, have also brought the online shopping experience to groceries in Canada, emulating what is already established in neighbouring US.
Singh said their product range was “in the thousands” and they had “acquired hundreds of thousands of customers”, though he would not give details as the startup looks for funding to expand.
The range available with apniroots is stored in a warehouse in Brampton and obtained from importers specialising in Desi items. But grocery shopping may be the starting point for them since Singh said they were in the process of “launching” jewelry, clothing, items for pujas, among other new offering, on the platform.
Singh estimated that groceries accounted for nearly 60% of the household budget of an Indo-Canadian family. “The market potential is there. This was an experiment and we have learnt a lot. Now we know where we are going,” Singh said.
For now, apniroots and its cousins offer Indo-Canadians another option for their next purchase of besan or even Maggi noodles.