Pocket Shop, a start-up website, has launched the ultimate in fast grocery deliveries – promising to have bread, eggs and milk in the hands of London customers less than an hour after they click ‘send’

August 18, 2013 1:52 pm

Pocket Shop launches speedy London delivery

By Jonathan Moules, Enterprise Correspondent

Pocket Shop, a start-up website, has launched the ultimate in fast grocery deliveries – promising to have bread, eggs and milk in the hands of London customers less than an hour after they click ‘send’. Its system works by allocating online orders to one of Pocket Shop’s team of 20 trained buyers around the capital, using a GPS-based algorithm similar to those employed by taxi-ordering smartphone apps.A text message alerts the buyers, directing them to the nearest Tesco or Sainsbury’s supermarket. An app on the buyers phones then displays the customer’s shopping list with instructions on the optimum way to navigate the aisles. Waitrose and Marks and Spencerwill be included soon, the company claims.

In this way, the service is similar to Instacart, which was founded in San Francisco last year and is backed by $10.8m of equity funding.

Pocket Shop, by contrast, has received just £300,000 in funding, from the start-up backer Forward Labs. But its ambition to cover the whole of London gives it a potential customer base 10 times larger than its US peer.

Its arrival also sets up a potential competitive clash between the two services – similar to the rivalry that has built up between taxi-hailing apps such as Uber, GetTaxi and Hailo in London and New York.

Pocket Shop’s founder Hemal Kuntawala describes the target market as the “hard core” of supermarket customers who order a weekly shop online but need to top this up a few days later, necessitating another trip to the shops.

During a month-long trial in the north London neighbourhood of Camden, Pocket Shop delivered 3,500 items.

However, Andrew McClelland, policy officer for the Interactive Media in Retail Group – which promotes best practice in online shopping – raised concerns about whether there was the demand for such a service.

“I would have thought that demand would be light in this particular segment,” he argued. “[Convenience] stores are big news at the moment, which is ironic as the big supermarkets were supposed to be the end of the corner shop.”

Although Pocket Shop claims its prices are comparable to local convenience stores, it makes a profit by charging a mark up on each item’s actual price as well as charging a delivery charge of between £6.50 and £5.10 depending on how quickly people want their items. Customers whose orders arrive late can have their delivery charge refunded or receive a voucher for money off the next order.

Mr Kuntawala claimed that he could scale the business by using crowdfunding techniques to recruit more part-time buyers.

“We will train them up and when they want to work they just push the button [on their phone],” he said.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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