Apniroots: Online Indian grocery store seek to cash in on growing demand

Apniroots.com, a new company was launched in Toronto in the summer of 2017.

During the severe winter season in Canada, venturing out is an adventure for many. But for one startup in the Greater Toronto Area, the extreme weather is an opportunity. Gurpreet Singh, Co-founder of apniroots.com says, “With adverse weather here, our business model works well. We have four months when other businesses slow down, ours will peak.”

Besides online ordering and delivery of Indian groceries covering a large swath of the GTA and the province of Ontario, apniroots.com also sends products via post to customers outside the delivery region.

Their website lists Desi staples like rice, atta, dals, pickles, or ready-to-eat South Indian meals like masala dosas, as well as pao bhaji and lassi.

Singh noticed that Indian stores selling groceries were “overpopulated” and owners “often didn’t seem to care” about service. Also, mainstream chains like WalMart, Metro or NoFrills have seen “increasing shelving” of Indian groceries, a pointer to the growing demand, as the Indo-Canadian population in the country nears 1.8 million, of which two-thirds live in Ontario.

“But they are not able to service very niche items and we have an edge on this,” Singh said.

New immigrants from India are also often used to the “experience of online ordering in metropolitan India”, which wasn’t really available in Canada.

He said, “We’re filling the gap.” In addition, many of these newcomers often don’t possess vehicles or have valid licenses, making the task to lugging a 10 pound bag of basmati rice home onerous. That’s one reason the early advertising campaign for apniroots has included displays in transit in Toronto and the GTA.

Apniroots is part of a trend and the first end-to-end platform of its kind in Canada with an extensive inventory, though smaller outlets, often extensions of brick-and-mortar stores, have also brought the online shopping experience to groceries in Canada, emulating what is already established in neighbouring US.