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Meet Manav Thaker and Sajal Rohatgi of Subziwalla in Midtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Manav Thaker and Sajal Rohatgi.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
It all started with an onion.

Subziwalla was born at a dinner while talking about our mutual love of onions with Indian dishes! While we differed in our opinions of what types of onions are best, we realized there wasn’t a store near us that provided easy access to fair-priced, high-quality Indian ingredients, including our beloved onions.

The conversation quickly moved to talk about how unorganized and time-consuming shopping at the Indian grocery stores is. From the traffic of driving to the Indian grocery store on any given day, to trying to find the right products, waiting on long lines and visiting multiple stores to get the best prices, we knew there had to be a better way.

We also knew we couldn’t be the only ones that felt this way, so we surveyed over 1000 people in the Metro area and the response was overwhelmingly positive: over three-quarters of the people wanted Indian grocery. Learning more about these consumers, and diving deeper into the national industry and market, we came to realize how much of a need there actually was: people were traveling long distances and spending hours trying to shop for their Indian groceries, time that could be spending with friends, family and whatever else might be most important to them.

We knew we were the ones who had to make it happen.

For the next year, we worked to secure a distributor for our products, a warehouse and fulfillment center, and a delivery service. We launched in April 2018, working directly with one of the largest wholesalers in the Southeast and delivering through FedEx.

Now, we’ve been in operation for eight months and it’s been amazing!

And while it’s not easy, what keeps us going is when we hear from our customers, from the students and working moms to entrepreneurs and the elderly, who let us know how much we’ve been able to positively affect their day-to-day lives by giving them much-needed time.

Has it been a smooth road?
There are always bumps in the road when starting any new business, and Indian grocery delivery is no different.

One of our strengths is acknowledging our skills and addressing our weaknesses in order to find staff and services that can fill in the gaps. Our biggest struggle as we built Subziwalla was finding the right partners who understood our brand and placed as much importance on quality and service as we did. This is one of the main reasons why we partnered with FedEx. While they are the leaders in delivery and logistics, it was more important that FedEx took the time to understand our business and provided the best solutions to support our growth.

Once we found the right partners all the other pieces began to fall into place.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Subziwalla story. Tell us more about it.
From fresh produce to frozen items and everything in between, Subziwalla is the one stop shop for all your Indian grocery needs.

We deliver free, next-day through FedEx; our customers place their orders by 5 PM and they get their groceries delivered by 8 PM the next day, guaranteed. Every order is fresh and carefully packed on the day of delivery, in our signature insulated totes that keep produce and other items fresh for up to 8 hours.

That way, our customers don’t have to be home or rush home for their delivery.

What sets us apart from other services is our continued commitment to our customers. We know they are the driving force of our company and we strive to provide the best customer service, period.

We pride ourselves on including the customer in the decision-making process. If one of the over 4000 products is not what they’re looking for, they can request a product and we’ll get it for them. Is there a brand or partner they want us to collaborate with? We’ll talk to them. We’ve added, removed and made changes based on customer feedback and we incentivize our customers to make suggestions in order to better our service with each delivery.

Engaging with and including our consumer, along with providing consistent service is the reason why 70% of our customers are coming back every few weeks, a feat not only for grocery, but e-commerce in any industry.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The grocery industry is one of the most exciting spaces at the moment. The acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon has put everyone’s attention on grocery. Innovators like Shipt and Instacart have transformed how people shop for groceries, Amazon and Walmart are battling for global grocery domination, and now-veteran players like Peapod and Freshdirect are adapting to maintain and gain market share.

That being said, ethnic grocery has not changed in the last 50 years. But consumer behavior and expectations are evolving, and consumer needs are not being addressed by existing players. That disconnect in the industry is where Subziwalla is making an impact.

As customer-centricity becomes more prevalent, the industry will see more niche startups founded to address specific consumers. Simultaneously, new technologies will revolutionize the supply chain and food production, and advances in delivery will make the last-mile more efficient and cost-effective.

The disruption of the grocery industry has already begun, but we are still in its infancy and there is a long way forward.


  • We have a flat $4.99 packaging fee for orders of any weight and offer free next-day delivery through FedEx with any minimum order of $40.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Priyank Dhabuwala @icanphotograph2

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