Food delivery industry in India - statistics & facts

Since 1890, the Dabbawalas of Mumbai have delivered homemade food to workplaces across the city with nearly 100 percent accuracy. Their organizational structure not only brought them into the Guinness Book of World Records but also inspired business coaches worldwide to implement similar structures to corporations worldwide. In 2019, even this traditional service needed digitization to stay competitive in India’s growing food delivery market.

Online food delivery and hyperlocal services

What started as an offline market grew into almost a purely digital space via platforms and apps. Online food delivery started roughly in 2014 with the startup boom in general, and although companies within this segment first limited themselves locally, they soon expanded thanks to significant funding. Often, restaurant searches, grocery shopping, or courier services were included in these services. The delivery market grew to contribute significantly to the service sector across India.

By 2021, two major home-grown competitors emerged to dominate the online delivery market in India - Zomato from Gurugram and Bengaluru-based Swiggy, both successfully acquiring local players as part of their expansion. Others in the market include delivery services of international quick-service brands like KFC, Domino’s, and Burger King. Deliveroo and GrubHub are other platforms that have entered the Indian market in recent years.

COVID-19 impact and the emergence of cloud kitchens

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic catalyzed the growth of online delivery in the country, much like the rest of the world. Although the service industry was the hardest hit, delivery became an essential service during India’s lockdowns. Alongside QSRs with delivery services and food aggregators like Zomato and Swiggy, ghost or cloud kitchens emerged, requiring collaboration with the latter for success. Here, the food is prepared exclusively for delivery without a dine-in option. Mumbai-based Rebel Foods was the largest cloud kitchen chain globally, delivering in about ten countries. CureFoods, on the other hand, established in 2020, was catching up in the domestic market.

The road to recovery

As pandemic restrictions eased and food services attempted to bounce back to their growth path, retaining staff in the delivery and quick commerce market seemed to affect the logistics of distribution, and was not restricted to the food delivery market alone. Personnel within the delivery market protested and voiced their poor working conditions on social media, made worse by extreme weather events such as heatwaves and unprecedented rainfall. Part of the solution lies in policies specific to the gig economy. Addressing this issue will likely enable smooth growth for the market, easing the road to the restaurant industry’s recovery in India.

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