Revolutionising Online Shopping – Hari Menon
Way back in 1999, when most of the world was remarking at the DotCom rage engulfing media, Hari Menon had made a foray into the realms of a business so unrealistic to the time, that it went unnoticed to most. E-Commerce was something unheard of in those days, but this far thinker, along with three others, had founded an online portal for grocery way back then. Today Hari Menon’s company BigBasket.com is not only the country’s biggest player in online grocery and home consumables, it is also one of the fastest growing E-Commerce businesses in the country, having reached the `1000-crore mark in just four years.
Hari Menon is one of the oldest players in the E-Commerce business in India having started off his initial online grocery portal fabmart.com way back in 1999. The BITS Pilani graduate, who dabbled in the IT Sector serving in companies such as ORG Systems, TVS Electronics, Wipro, Planet Asia before giving life to his entrepreneurial streak, says that his first experiment with a business in the online space came much before its time. “In 2000 we converted the online business into a physical grocery chain. What me, along with my colleagues started out as Fabmall, is what you today see as the ‘More’ chain of supermarkets – a new brand name to a business that we eventually sold to the Aditya Birla Group in 2006,” he tells.
After a brief stint in the education sector with the Manipal Group, Menon and his friends who had planned Fabmall founded BigBasket, their second try at success with an online grocery chain. This time however, everything from the timing to the concept and execution was perfect. What started out as the country’s first large scale online platform for grocery and home consumables has today, in just a span of four years, grown into a `1000-crore company and has even managed to get one of the most iconic faces of Indian cinema to endorse their brand.
With Shah Rukh Khan as their brand ambassador they have been seeing huge success, thereby strengthening the business in all the seven tier 1 cities where they are present today.
“We’re soon moving into our eighth tier 1 city – Kolkata and will be in 20 more tier 2 cities as well,” tells Menon, outlining the company’s extensive expansion plans. “We’re also setting up branded stores in key cities where our demand is high,” he tells. According to statistics provided by the man himself, Big Basket takes on more than 27,000 orders a day.
“We’re now looking at moving into the technology analytics space where we can start understanding consumer behaviour and alter the site accordingly. BigBasket will also soon see organic products on its shelf since we understand that the demand for whole foods and organic produce is high. We’re also planning to introduce Happy Chef meal kits to enable youngsters and busy individuals to enjoy the convenience of having a well cooked meal at home,” he explains.
Born into a middle class family in Mumbai, Menon is a Malayalee who has spent much of his time in Mumbai and now a major chunk of his work life in Bengaluru. For someone whose entrepreneurial streak came to light much after he was settled into a flourishing career, Menon says that he was groomed to play by the book and stick to norms, but it was his urge to experiment with things that made him and his colleagues try out something new. The self-confessed music enthusiast spends much of his time with his three grown sons aged 26, 24 and 22 playing music and jamming with them. “I play the guitar,” he tells, adding that he used to play in a band during his college days at Pilani. “Now I jam with the boys and we all hope to play on some sort of a stage someday,” he tells. His wife Shanti is the principal of The Deen’s Academy in Whitefield, Bengaluru, and the couple shuttle between their two homes in the city, choosing to live closer to his wife’s work place during the week and settling into their family home for the weekend where they can unwind over music, good food and some much needed R&R.