India’s e-commerce market is growing at an incredibly quick pace and expected to be worth $100 billion by 2020. All online sellers, however, face a major hurdle: the country’s underdeveloped logistics infrastructure. A new startup called QikPod wants to help by building the world’s largest network of smart lockers, where shoppers can pick up packages, in Indian cities.
Founded by serial entrepreneur Ravi Gururaj, QikPod is still preparing to launch its pilot programs in January, but has already raised $9 million from Accel Partners, Flipkart (one of India’s largest e-commerce sites), logistics company Delhivery, and Foxconn Mobile (the lockers will be built by Foxconn).
“In India the last few hundred meters in the logistics chain seems to involve a lot of friction. Most shoppers want to receive their packages between 4pm and 7pm, which is bothersome for companies because that is during peak rush hour. Lockers not only save both sellers and buyers money, but also ensure extra security because fewer people have access to customer information like addresses,” says Gururaj.
Packages will be delivered in batches of up to a 1,000 to QikPod’s lockers, which send a notification with a code to shoppers’ mobile phones. They can pick up their items anytime within the next 24 hours by entering their code into the locker, which then lets companies know they have been emptied.
In order to succeed, QikPod must make sure its lockers are easy to access; over the next 18 months, QikPod wants to have at least 50,000 lockers installed in India’s 10 biggest cities. Guruaj says the company’s goal is to eventually have units within 100 meters of everyone in major cities, with lockers in large retailers, apartment buildings, ATM rooms, bus stops, gyms, and other highly-trafficked places.
For e-commerce companies, Gururaj says the benefits of smart lockers include lower package loss rates, happier customers, and a higher return on their logistics costs.