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Zepto: From Pandemic Response to Unicorn Status



In a remarkable venture, online grocery delivery startup Zepto has raised an impressive $200 million in a Series-E funding round, raising its valuation to a substantial $1.4 billion. This achievement also makes Zepto the first unicorn of 2023 in India. StepStone Group, a renowned private markets investment firm from the United States, led the funding. This event stands out as StepStone Group’s debut direct investment in an Indian enterprise, reflecting the growing global recognition of India’s thriving startup sector.

Goodwater Capital, a prominent California-based venture capital firm with a consumer-focused approach, also joined the funding round, showcasing its confidence in Zepto’s potential. Existing investors, including Nexus Venture Partners, Glade Brook Capital and others, further increased their investments by injecting substantial follow-on funds.

So, what is Zepto ‘s Business Model?

Zepto was founded as a response to the challenges of the pandemic in 2021 by Aadit Palicha and Kaivalya Vohra, both of whom dropped out of Stanford University to pursue their entrepreneurial vision. Their innovative business model revolves around quick commerce, which delivers an impressive variety of over 6,000 grocery products within a mere 10 minutes, supported by an extensive network of delivery hubs strategically situated nationwide.

This model, while highly successful, hasn’t been without its challenges. Concerns about the sustainability of this quick commerce approach and the substantial cash burn it entails have been raised. However, Zepto has demonstrated its operational prowess by achieving EBITDA positivity in a significant portion of its dark stores, thus reducing its cash burn rate.

Zepto’s journey has been characterized by rigorous operational discipline and impressive growth. The company’s disciplined approach is paying off, with a remarkable 300% year-on-year surge in sales. This trajectory positions Zepto to attain a noteworthy milestone of $1 billion in annualized sales in the upcoming quarters. The company’s path to complete EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization) positivity within 12 to 15 months showcases its commitment to sustainable growth.

Kaivalya Vohra, Zepto’s co-founder and CTO, emphasizes the company’s efforts to maintain discipline, even as fresh capital flows in. Zepto’s roadmap to profitability centers around technological and product enhancements, acknowledging their vital role in driving the company’s success.

Zepto ‘s Success Amid Industry Challenges

Zepto’s triumph in securing substantial funding comes at a time when other players in the quick delivery space, such as Dunzo, are facing financial difficulties. Zepto’s focus on execution, customer-centricity and disciplined operations have set them apart in an industry undergoing turbulence.

The startup — whose annualized revenue sales today exceeds $700 million, according to Palicha — has grown its sales by 300% year-on-year and is targeting $1 billion in annualized sales within the next few quarters, he said. In 2022, Zepto raised $200 million in a Series D funding round led by American technology startup accelerator Y Combinator’s Continuity Fund, which then valued the quick commerce firm at $900 million.

The successful funding rounds highlight the company’s operational excellence and innovative quick commerce model. As the first unicorn of 2023, Zepto’s journey continues to garner attention and inspire confidence in India’s vibrant startup landscape. With a steadfast eye on their IPO aspirations within the next two to three years, Zepto is all set to reform the future of online grocery delivery.

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