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 Delivery, and Foxconn Mobile (the lockers will be built by Foxconn). One of Gururaj’s previous companies, VMLogix, was acquired by Citrix in 2010.
Gururaj says he wanted to do something in the e-commerce space but didn’t want to open yet another online store. “I went to look at logistics and saw that the last few hundred meters in the logistics chain seem to involve a lot of friction,” he told TechCrunch. “You have to be at home to receive a package and leaving a package on a doorstep, which you can do in parts of Europe or America, doesn’t work in India because it will get pilfered.” Most shoppers want to receive their packages between 4 pm and 7 pm, which is bothersome for companies because that’s during peak rush hour. Gururaj says lockers not only save both sellers and buyers money but also ensure extra security because fewer people have access to customer information like addresses.
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. Using smart lockers for deliveries, of course, is not a new concept. In the U.S., Amazon and Wal-mart have experimented with them, but the system failed to gain traction because most American consumers prefer the convenience of having their packages delivered to their doorstep.