The founders of Indian start-up Zepto share tips for building a business

When Kaivalya Vohra wanted to leave Stanford University to run his startup, it took “a few long talks” to convince his parents.

But getting them on board wasn’t that hard, he said.

“They saw how this business grew right in front of them, they saw how quickly we achieved what we achieved.”

It took just nine months for Vohra and its co-founder, Aadit Palicha, to bring Zepto — an India-based app that promises to deliver groceries in less than 10 minutes — to a valuation of $900 million.

Going in thinking you’re wrong and learning where to get it right… that journey was humbling.

Aadit Palicha

Co-founder and CEO, Zepto

How did two teenagers build one of India’s fastest-growing fast-trading apps? CNBC Make It finds out.

1. Talk to customers

Finding a good product-market fit is important, Vohra said. His advice how to do that?

“Talk to customers. Just use that as a holy grail [to] making sure you are on the right track to find the right product market.”

“One of the hardest things is getting to the point where you have a product that people love… It’s much easier and much faster if you’re constantly talking to customers, getting feedback from them and learning from them,” he added.

In the early days of Zepto, the 19-year-olds handled customer service themselves and delivered the groceries to consumers so they could have a chat with them.

Zepto isn’t the only fast-paced commerce startup in India, and competition is increasing both domestically and globally. According to Redseer, the country’s online grocery market will be worth about $24 billion by 2025.

zepto

“We are still doing it to this day… We have millions of customers, with hundreds of thousands of orders per day. [We still] spend a lot of time talking to customers and learning from them,” says Palicha.

“Going in with the mindset that you’re wrong and learning where to get it right… that journey was humbling.”

2. Fall in love with your product

Palicha and Vohra were not always taken seriously – not only because of their age, but also because of the “craziness” of a delivery idea under 10 minutes.

“When we started this 12 months ago, every conversation we had was, ‘You’re crazy, this is never going to work,'” Palicha said.

But their belief in their product kept them going.

“Kaivalya and I fell so in love with the product that we saw ourselves as custodians of what was likely to become a major phenomenon in the consumer internet in India,” says Palicha.

“If we don’t build it, someone else will. If you work with that mindset, everything becomes less intimidating.”

Falling in love with the product and building that belief really drives you to… go through that product.

Aadit Palicha

Co-founder and CEO, Zepto

Therefore, the duo could have “challenging conversations” with investors, senior executives and even a government official, Palicha added.

Despite being just one of many companies joining the instant commerce wave, it has caught the attention of investors. The latest $200 million cash injection in May brought Zepto one step closer to unicorn status.

“Falling in love with the product and building that belief just pushes you to… go through that product,” Palicha said.

3. Be Responsible

Palicha and Vohra have been friends since they were seven years old – a big advantage as they went from childhood friends to business partners.

“Kaivalya and I really complement each other’s skills. He has always been technically better than me, so he has become a great Chief Technology Officer,” Palicha said.

“12 months ago when we built the first iteration of the product, I don’t think we could have gotten it off the ground [without him].”

Kaivalya Vohra (left) and Aadit Palicha are the teens behind Zepto, an Indian startup that promises to deliver groceries in less than 10 minutes.

zepto

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