Sikkim’s Developing Online Market: The Recent Growth of E-Commerce in Sikkim

The state of Sikkim has henceforth witnessed the growth of multiple online platforms offering services from delivery of food to grocery in the past year. With this trend catching up, Gangtok has begun to offer e-commerce services almost at par with many metropolitan cities across India and home-grown ventures are now competing with big corporates like Reliance as the big-wigs have opened their online shopping platform for consumers in Gangtok.

Sikkim’s Developing Online Market: The Recent Growth of E-Commerce in Sikkim

With the global COVID-19 pandemic soaring, there has been a general growth in the e-commerce sector as more people prefer shopping online. The concern of safety issues, multiple uncertain lockdowns and the factor of getting anything needed at the click of a button delivered at your doorsteps has resulted in a lot of people shifting to online shopping. The state of Sikkim has henceforth witnessed the growth of multiple online platforms offering services from delivery of food to grocery in the past year. With this trend catching up, Gangtok has begun to offer e-commerce services almost at par with many metropolitan cities across India and home-grown ventures are now competing with big corporates like Reliance as the big-wigs have opened their online shopping platform for consumers in Gangtok.

Sikkim now has multiple e-commerce platforms for grocery shopping such as Kweekvery, Doco Poco, Lets Local and so on. Apart from this, there are entrepreneurs who, with the help of social networking sites such as Instagram and Facebook, have entered the grocery and vegetable e-market sector. For instance, SamdurFarms, a recent start-up, focuses on delivering organic vegetables and fresh produce that are locally grown in their surroundings. They have a tie-up with Dash (delivery executives) and deliver fresh vegetables, fruits and few grocery products on order.

Kweekvery provides organic vegetables delivered to doorsteps and proudly claims to be the first organic vegetables e-commerce platform in Sikkim. Kweekvery was established in 2016 by BivekTimsina. They started off with exporting cardamom, ginger and local-made broom to other states. During the first lockdown, they started delivering local organic vegetables grown in villages to customers in and around Gangtok. He said, “As of now, we are delivering local veggies, dairy products, meat and indoor plants to the customers directly from local farms. Our platform has helped many farmers and educated, unemployed youth to generate their income by selling their produce through the platform. Our aim is to promote our local products not only in Sikkim, but to the national market.”

Doco Poco, yet another platform that was established in February 2021 by Vikas Prasad and Rohit Khattar, also delivers grocery to doorsteps in Gangtok. An idea that germinated in 2019 took shape in early 2021. According to the entrepreneurs, Gangtok has a good market for e-commerce sectors to flourish as it has a reasonable population of people working in both government and private sectors. Online delivery platforms have made it easier for the people to procure grocery and daily needs at their doorsteps. According to Vikas Prasad, proprietor, “The response has been good as we already have over 5000 plus orders delivered in these few months of operation. However, as a start-up, we had our own challenges in delivering essentials. We are constantly working hard to deliver the best quality products to our customers.”

Another platform that delivers an array of local, organic produce and grocery is Lets Local. Lets Local was established during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in August 2019. Being a sister concern of Our guest, an off-beat travel company and aggregator of home and farm stays in North-East India, the team had access to rural areas in the North-East, and especially in Sikkim. With the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, which resulted in the decline of the tourism sector, the need to promote sustainable livelihood came to play. And this in turn pushed the founder to connect the rural with the urban by opening an e-platform where consumers in the city could gain access to local produce from the villages. This platform has a designated section for local produce from the villages-Bastiko. According to Pintso Gyatso, “Bastiko ideal is the direct link village products to the consumer through our online platform and through some retail outlets in the coming days. The challenge is real and Bastiko section on Lets Local has an array of locally available vegetables, fruits, food grains and dairy products. We have received a good response as the people of Sikkim have been supportive in encouraging local enterprises.”

Apart from delivery of grocery and vegetables, Sikkim also provides multiple platforms for food delivery. And this sector has grown beyond Gangtok as for instance, Food Mart, an online platform delivers food to doorsteps in Namchi, South Sikkim. In the capital city of Gangtok, operators such as Chitto, Mitho and Dash have been around for a while and including more restaurants to their database. But alongside this, there has been a rise in the number of cloud kitchens coming up. The concept of cloud kitchen, that had caught in many other cities a while ago, is simply an establishment that runs from a home or a remote location where food is cooked at a kitchen and the food is delivered through online platforms. The idea of doing away with dine-in in times of the pandemic is slowly catching up in Gangtok.

YeshayChopel Bhutia along with one of his  friend founded ‘The Lazy Chef Gangtok’ during the first wave of lockdown in August 2020. The entrepreneurs, both having been professional chefs for over a decade, had come back home to Sikkim for good when the pandemic struck. And given the limitations, they began a cloud kitchen that offers an array of cuisine from across the world, with a team of five members that included family members. They got into a tie-up with another start-up ‘Soul Wheelers’ to get their food delivered. The entire operation, from the kitchen to the delivery, is mostly by different members of the family. According to Yeshay Chopel, “It is more of extending our support to each other and keeping ourselves motivated through the journey, as all our lives have been hampered in some way or the other due to the pandemic.”

“The response so far has been overwhelming. We have delivered more than 2000 orders in a years’ time and our customers have been really supportive so far which gives us the zeal to serve even better in the days to come.” He added.

With a number of e-commerce platforms coming up by the day in Sikkim, it is interesting to note that the consumer society is balancing their shopping between online platforms and the local shops. The effort put in by the consumer in Sikkim to make sure that the vegetable vendor who visits their locality once or twice a week doesn’t run out of business and livelihood is something that requires appreciation. With the advent of technology and everything available at the click of a button, many cities are witnessing the shutting down of small shops and enterprises with the shift to e-commerce shopping platforms. The need to maintain a balance between both is really important and this would further support the general balance of the society.

By  Vaidyanath Nishant. The author is a freelance writer. He can be contacted at vaidyanathnishant7@gmail.com