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Online vendors and restaurants keen to reach customers directly and keep their data are utilizing smaller delivery services, bypassing established online marketplaces and their commission model.

Delhi-based on-demand delivery service Pidge has seen a 12X increase in business since March, founder Ratnesh Verma said. According to him, businesses using his services get to retain their brand image and keep customer data. Besides, it charges delivery fees, not commissions, per order.

“The unit economics in the last-mile delivery space is completely broken. Deep discounting happens to be the core value proposition, and we’ve been clear from day one, that we are not a commoditized transactional business," said Verma.

Pidge delivers through its own staff, not gig workers, which means it can commit to providing delivery personnel consistently. Verma said it did business even during lockdown.

Sellers get wider visibility through marketplace-based platforms. However, these platforms do not let a seller, a restaurant, for instance, to directly interact with customers and build its brand. Alternative platforms such as Pidge let brands retain their identity and customer data. Restaurant chain Big Chill delivers solely through such partners.

Thomas Fenn, a managing committee member at the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), said his association has been working with offline to online commerce platform DotPe to help firms build the user experience, while the logistics firms can handle the delivery.

Restaurants, for instance, are in a tussle with food delivery platforms as these marketplaces set policies, forcing them to look for other options.

India has close to 6 million independent sellers with an online presence, according to Shiprocket, an online logistics and shipping aggregator. Out of this, 4 million are large- to medium-sized sellers who utilize marketplaces such as Amazon and Flipkart.

The rest choose direct to customer (D2C) distribution, according to Saahil Goel, chief executive and co-founder, Shiprocket. His company has partnerships with service providers such as Delhivery, where a business/seller can find the best shipping rates.

“D2C sellers like to use technology tools like Shopify, Instamojo and Magento to build their own online storefronts and they also use social media tools like WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook to directly market their products," he added.

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