Want to get groceries, pizza, harissa, wazwan or medicines delivered at your doorstep, call Stop Shop. Saima Bhat meets the brain behind Kashmir’s phone-in express delivery service
Everything was perfect for Aqib Shah, 25, a Belgium returned management graduate, who worked with American Express Company in Delhi, till he saw an advertisement promoting an online store. This instantly sent him in thinking mode: why can’t we have such an online shop in Kashmir?
For the next few days, Aqib glued himself to his laptop to research all successful online stores. Once done with the research, Aqib packed his bags, resigned from his lucrative job, and landed in Srinagar. “My father was shocked to see me home,” recalls Aqib, “he failed to understand why I left a white-collar job for online baniya store!”
But Aqib had already burnt his boats. After getting his father’s consent, Aqib started Stop Shop – an online-cum-phone in delivery service – from a 150 sqft rented room in uptown Parray Pora. “Most of the families living in uptown Srinagar have their youngsters living outside Kashmir. They needed someone to do their chores,” says Aqib, defending his idea to start from the uptown locality.
In October 2015, after managing an initial investment of Rs 20 thousand from his friends, Aqib decorated his office with second-hand furniture. The next step was to wait for the first call. It came after two days. “We delivered a pizza in Sanat Nagar area against a payment of Rs 30. That was our first earning,” recalls Aqib.
In the beginning, Aqib worked without tying up with the vendors. “We simply purchased goods from the market and then delivered them to our clients against a nominal charge,” says Aqib.
But that arrangement proved cumbersome. After four months, Aqib tied-up with major fast-food outlets in Srinagar, taking his regular clientele to 3000. “The response is good. We are planning to expand our delivery system to the old city as well,” says Aqib.
In coming months, Aqib is planning to start a departmental store from Baghat area where things will be sold on discounted rates. “I want to have such stores after every 5 km in Srinagar,” says Aqib.
Stop Shop has categorized orders under two heads: free home delivery of groceries, vegetables etc. and special home delivery where pizza, chicken rolls, bakery items, Wazwan and Harissa (straight from Ali Kadal) are delivered at a client’s doorstep against a payment of Rs 30 and Rs 60, depending upon the distance. However, medicines are delivered free of cost at a discount of 5 per cent. “This winter we delivered 68 kgs of Harrisa on,” says Aqib, “It was challenging for Showkat, our star delivery man, who used to deliver it before 8 am.”
Aqib, who hails from Old Srinagar’s Narwara area, receives at least sixty queries a day on his office phone. After five months of operations, Aqib has a team of ten employees including Showkat. “We call him Showkat Express as he never misses a deadline of delivery in 30 minutes,” says Aqib.
But there were times when Aqib almost closed down his business and thought of flying back to Delhi. “I was pushing resources in it without returns,” says Aqib. “But not that phase is over.”