Startups
Every single VC was impressed with the team and execution, but the slowdown had made everyone at bit gun-shy, he says.
  • Wednesday, December 06, 2017 - 15:15

By Sahil Kini

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the summer of 2015 in Bangalore. And it happened to be one of those rare April afternoons when it was a little too hot for a walk. My partner Kartik felt like a milkshake, but was too lazy to go get it. Tom walked in on us hemming and hawing about stepping out, and then just said "Why don't you try this dunzo thing my buddy Vir just told me about?"

We stared at each other blankly and asked "What's dunzo?"

"Oh it's some new thing. This guy called Kabeer has given his Whatsapp number to a few folks. You text him with what you need done and he goes and does it." Tom replied.

"What do you mean 'he goes and does it'? Does what?" I asked, intrigued

"Well pretty much anything. Vir had him move a tree to Cubbon Park last week."

I almost snorted out the coffee I was sipping on at that moment. "Say what?"

"Yeah! He just takes care of it. Just ping him with your milkshake request and see what happens."

And that's exactly what we did. Sure enough, 20 mins later, a scruffy bespectacled man stood beaming at our door, thanking us warmly for trying out his service. That was the first time I met Kabeer Biswas. Little did I know that it was to be the start of a beautiful friendship (and partnership!).

Dunzo was born out of the most simple desire. "I just wanted a to-do list that completed itself." said Kabeer, when I asked him why in the world would someone subject themselves to the punishment of running others chores. "I think everyone needs a dunzo".

In the months that followed, we relentlessly dunzo-ed everything. From polishing shoes, to installing faux grass and a retractable awning in our office, to repairing cracked iPhone screens, Kabeer did it all. Want medicines at 3am, buzz dunzo. Forgot keys at home. Dunzo. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We dunzo-ed our absent-minded-ness away.

And no matter how hard we pushed Kabeer. There he was. Delivering the goods, with a giant smile on his face. Once, we ran well over a dozen tasks in the span of a few hours late at night, and asked for something the next morning. There he was again.

We were so impressed with the intensity of his execution, and his customer centricity that we didn't even wait for him to pitch us. Dunzo didn't even have an app back then. No task partners either. It was just 5 rag tag folks frantically running tasks on Whatsapp. It didn't matter.

We could see that these guys were exceptional. And we wanted a seat at the table.

So we wrote the only seed cheque we've written so far. Karthik Reddy of Blume ventures did the round with us. And thus began the crazy journey that has led us up to this point.

Soon after the investment, the heady days of 2015 passed, and the so-called "winter" (which we call a necessary correction) arrived. 2016 was a tough year for hyper local startups. So when dunzo's meagre seed round ran out, we decided to lead the Series A round as well. Our friends at Blume shared our belief and doubled down along with us.

We knew they'd build something special. Simply because every time we went back to meet the team, they'd solved yet another hard problem. From building a stellar team, to amazing back-end tracking and analytics, to never compromising on customer experience — dunzo was always laser focused on having a product driven approach to solving what mattered.

In early December 2016, I visited Kabeer at his home to tell him that he needed to start raising funds right away. "But I have enough runway till July!" he cried. Understandably he wanted to focus on product building. But he soon realized that given the prevailing market conditions, this would be a protracted process. In January of this year we began to reach out to everyone.

And so we did. We wrote to every single investor in India, and what feels like nearly every single investor interested in India.

But it was a tough slog. All the major VCs had already burnt their fingers in the hyper local space, the outsiders were intrigued but reluctant to lead a round. Every single one of them was impressed with the team and execution, but the slowdown had made everyone at bit gun-shy.

More than 10x growth in a year. Zero marketing spend. ~50% user retention at the 6 month mark. An almost cult-like love from its users. All while improving pricing to break even at the unit level.

And yet it wasn't enough. We were met with no after no for a whole year.

But we persisted. And all through this we kept telling ourselves, we just need one yes.

And what a yes it was! Just last week, the Next Billion Users unit of Google Inc. decided they wanted to be a part of the dunzo story and led the Series B fundraise. We couldn't have asked for a more capable and wonderful co-investor on this journey and are confident that they will be the rocket-fuel that dunzo has rightfully earned.

We're really proud of the Kabeer and the entire dunzo team for what they have achieved so far. Aspada was one of the first beta testers of dunzo. Our firm was a user when it was just Kabeer, a scooter, and a WhatsApp group! To us, this is what the essence of our job is all about. To find exceptional entrepreneurs at the embryonic stage and work with them throughout their growth story.

It's really gratifying to see that belief validated by an international major like Google. The fact that it is only their seventh direct investment from the corporate entity, makes it all the more sweeter. We welcome them to the dunzo family and look forward to working with them going forward.

After all, it's about time the other cities of the world experienced the pleasure of dunzo-ing all your to-dos away!

Pune, you're up next.

(Reproduced with permission from Sahil Kini , Principal, Aspada Investments, which is one of Dunzo’s initial investors)