Founders of Indian start-up Zepto share tips on building a business

When Kaivalya Vohra wanted to drop out of Stanford University to run her startup, it took “a couple of long conversations” to convince her parents.

But bringing them on board wasn’t too difficult, he said.

“They saw this business grow in front of them, they saw how quickly we accomplished what we accomplished.”

Vohra and his co-founder, Aadit Palicha, took just nine months to bring Zepto, an Indian app that promises to deliver groceries in less than 10 minutes, to a $900 million valuation.

Going in with the mindset that you’re wrong and learning where to get it right…that journey has been humbling.

Addit Palicha

Co-founder and CEO, Zepto

How did two teenagers build one of the fastest growing quick trading apps in India? CNBC Make It finds out.

1. Talk to customers

Finding a good fit between product and market is important, Vohra said. Your advice from him on how to do that?

“Talk to customers. Just use it as a holy grail [to] make sure you’re on the right track to find the right product for the market.”

“One of the hardest things is getting to that point where you have a product that people love… It’s so much easier and faster if you’re constantly talking to customers, getting feedback from them and learning from them.” he added.

In the early days of Zepto, 19-year-olds handled customer service and delivered groceries to consumers just so they could have a quick chat with them.

Zepto is not the only quick trade startup in India, and competition is intensifying both domestically and globally. The country’s online grocery market will be worth about $24 billion by 2025, according to Redseer.


“We still do it to this day… We have millions of customers, with hundreds of thousands of orders every day. [We still] spending a significant amount of time just talking to customers, learning from them,” Palicha said.

“Going in with the mindset that you’re wrong and learning where to do it right…that journey has been humbling.”

2. Fall in love with your product

Palicha and Vohra were not always taken seriously, not only because of their age, but also because of the “insanity” of a sub-10-minute delivery idea.

“When we started this 12 months ago, all the conversations we had were, ‘You’re completely insane, this is never going to work,'” Palicha said.

But their belief in their product kept them going.

“Kaivalya and I fell so in love with the product that we saw ourselves as custodians of what would likely end up being a huge internet phenomenon for consumers in India,” said Palicha.

“If we don’t build it, someone else will. When you operate with that mindset, everything becomes less intimidating.”

Falling in love with the product and building that belief really pushes you to… do that product.

Addit Palicha

Co-founder and CEO, Zepto

That’s why the duo could engage in “challenging conversations” with investors, top executives and even a government official, Palicha added.

Despite being just one of many companies that joined the wave of instant trading, it has caught the attention of investors. Its latest cash injection of $200 million in May brought Zepto one step closer to unicorn status.

“Falling in love with the product and building that belief really pushes you to… do that product,” Palicha said.

3. Be responsible

Palicha and Vohra have been friends since they were seven years old, a big plus as they went from childhood friends to business partners.

“Kaivalya and I really complement each other’s skill set. He’s always been more technically sound than me, so he’s a great CTO,” Palicha said.

“Twelve months ago, when we were building the first version of the product, I don’t think we would have been able to get it off the ground. [without him].”

Kaivalya Vohra (left) and Aadit Palicha are the teenagers behind Zepto, an Indian startup that promises to deliver groceries in less than 10 minutes.