For some investors I knew, Hyper-Local was always pronounced Hype-Local since the ‘r’ for revenue was missing. How on earth, they say, will anyone make money just delivering stuff at no margin while overpaying delivery boys and doling out coupons? I’m sure we’ve all done our doomsday reading on Food-Tech, e-Grocery, Home-Improvement and Local Logistics, and probably Hyper Local too. The aim of this post isn’t naming all the many startups in trouble but to figure out why.
Some people ask if the early death of such ventures is a bad thing at all. A lot of startups and investors I know are celebrating the separation of the chaff from the wheat. Many food-tech startups, for them, had no ‘tech’ in them. They were helping people do on an app what they used to do on a phone call, e.g. explore menu options or order food. Many on-demand local-logistics people were just overpaying drivers and under-charging merchants in the hope their inflated orders are seen as traction by their investors. Grocery, similarly, is a tough game with notoriously thin margins. It took Ocado 15 years to deliver the first year of profits. Service aggregation has its own problems that prevent every business from becoming the oft-touted Uber-of-XYZ.
Let me make a very basic point. Inventory can be classified in many ways but a useful classification is on the scarcity axis, which translates into premium chargeable. One can have the following kinds of inventory on this logic: