Avoid traffic, save petrol, sit at home and order groceries and veggies and spend that precious time with family on the weekend. Many Bangaloreans are opting for the convenience of shopping for their staples online, finds Bhumika K

What would you rather do? Laze around at home on the weekend, or play with your kids on their much-looked-forward-to Sunday? Or push the shopping trolley all over the crowded supermarket looking for bread and eggs, washing powder, and vegetables for the week?

Welcome to the world of online grocery and vegetable shopping, where you are promised an escape from the chore of supply buying. You can click on your tarkari of the day, the soppu you want, bung it into a virtual shopping cart with atta and rice, diapers, upma mix, and chutney. Pay with your card, or maybe even pay cash on delivery, when it is all bundled at your doorstep the next day. Easy, huh?

Not as simple though (you still have to load a cart, even if it’s virtual!) but not a bad option either, as many people in Bangalore are discovering. Bangalore is home to more than seven such online grocery and vegetable shopping sites, many centred around smaller parts of the city, and some operating all over the city — including bigbasket.com, towness.co.in, zopnow.com, atmydoorsteps.com, toptomato.com. And they have all you may need on offer from your basic hing and ajwain, to exotic Betty Crocker cake mixes, lamp oil, air freshener to dog food, baby food, dal, salt, sugar and whatever else may be on your standard monthly shopping list.

Roopa Shree Ramprasad, a 40-year-old homemaker who lives on Kanakapura Road, is still fresh from her first online grocery shopping experience. She was, like most of us would be, sceptical about buying vegetables she can’t touch and see online. “When I lived in Singapore, I used to do my grocery shopping online. But when I moved here and my friend recommended it, my biggest worry was quality. But I was finally persuaded by my sister-in-law’s positive experience. I went on a shopping spree and ordered my month’s supply of rice, atta, everything else, and vegetables. I was really impressed with the quality and the packaging. My standard was the tomato — they were perfectly and uniformly ripe, and of the same quality and size! The vegetables and greens came cleaned, sorted and packed. No mud at all! Even frozen foods weren’t soggy.”

Earlier, says Roopa, her driver would take her in the car to the supermarket, and she went to a neighbourhood wholesale rice shop to pick up rice. “I now save on petrol, I don’t have to hunt for what I want in various sections of the supermarket, I don’t have to put up with the jostling crowds, and I don’t have to wait for supermarket-staff to search for things I ask, only to tell me it’s not in stock!” she lists out the benefits of online shopping.

Such pleasant surprises have prompted people to tell friends and relatives, who have also jumped onto this bandwagon. Ketaki Phadke, a busy chartered accountant, says: “I’ve been shopping online now for almost eight months, almost weekly sometimes, for regular groceries, including vegetables. Being a working woman, I don’t have the patience to stand in line for my rice and dal at 8 p.m after work.” Her husband too has shopped online on another site, when she’s too busy to do it, based on recommendations of his office colleagues. The only downside to it, she says is that you must order a minimum of Rs. 500 worth of products.

The sites offer many advantages — you can easily “search” for products you want. Some have a pre-loaded basic cart with dal/rice/oil/salt packages which saves you time and energy, almost all of them let you pick delivery time according to your convenience, many deliver on the same day as the order. Most of the sites procure veggies after you order, so products are fresh. “What makes me keep going back is the quality, as well as the price which is on-par with market rates,” says Mamatha Ramesh, a German-language teacher, who’s been shopping online since May 2012. “I’m also sent an SMS and email telling me if a product I have ordered isn’t available.” She points out that she would spend double the delivery charge she pays online, if she were to take an autorickshaw to the market and lug back vegetables.

Discounts are aplenty, there are also reward programmes for regular and repeat shoppers. Some pitch themselves as “green” stores – they deliver in plastic or wooden cartons that are taken back for reuse, don’t use plastic bags and covers, and even offer to take back the Styrofoam packs that the veggies come in and recycle them. Many of the stores are high on social networking too, and some offer mobile apps for their store. Some take orders over telephone and SMS even. One even has delivery boys bring wireless card-swiping devices for all those weary of paying online.

We’ve moved from dropping off the month’s list at the kiranawallah, to shopping at the huge supermarket. As we take the next step in making our life easy many may argue that we are breaking away from personal relations and killing the small local economy. But when convenience is the question, most customers give in.

Abhinay Choudhuri, co-founder of BigBasket.com, an online grocery store that started in December 2011, says that on an average they have about 1,000 people ordering in each day now. “Our total customer base is about 40,000,” he says. The customer profile? Almost 30 per cent of them are double-income post graduates, have at some time lived abroad, value spending time with their family over the weekend — a time they would otherwise have spent going to a supermarket to shop for the week. “A majority of our customers are from out of town… those who have come to the city two or three years ago and do not feel attached to a specific store.” Most of his customers spend Rs. 1,500 per buy.

One can dispel the myth that it’s only office-goers who use such a service. Any stay-at-home mum will tell you that making a supermarket trip with kids in tow is avoidable. Singletons, especially those new to the city, and who only need a few basics also prefer the hassle-free shopping

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