Belarusian darkstore Bazar kicks off in Kyiv: 15-minute free delivery with no minimum order

Belarusian grocery delivery service Bazar has launched in Kyiv. So far, it operates only on the territory of the housing estate Comfort Town. The service offers its users free grocery delivery within 15 minutes with no minimum order limit.

AIN.UA spoke to the co-founder of Bazar Pavel Samolazov and learned about the history of the service, the launch in Kyiv, the plans to enter other regions of Ukraine, and how dark stores work.

Bazar was launched in Minsk less than a year ago

Bazar is a customerless shop. It still has its shelves, fridges, goods, and prices just like in your corner shop. But customers are filling their baskets online with pickers and deliverymen serving as their hands and feet to pack and bring the order to the customers’ houses or apartments.

“We were tired of wasting our time on grocery shopping. It was not always a pleasant experience. One spends a lot of time looking for goods, going back and through trying to collect everything one needs. And there is always a lot of hassle to have your money back. Overall, especially taking into account winter and summer weather complications, grocery shopping doesn’t seem a smart way of spending your time. I’ve got the desire to change this situation once and forever. And after the pandemic was there, we realized that it was the right time to start. So in 4 months, we have made our first delivery,” Pavlo said.

The service started in Minsk in July 2020, and now it delivers over 16,000 orders per month in four delivery zones. The service aims to make 100,000 orders per month in Minsk by the end of 2021. There are currently four dark stores in Minsk, and the company plans to expand the network to 10 by the end of the summer. At the same time, to cover the entire Minsk, about 17 dark stores are needed.

“We earn through saving”

There is no minimum order price, and delivery is always free. Thus, customers can order just a pack of milk or a dozen eggs, and we will provide the delivery to your door in just 15 minutes.

I always say we earn through saving. As we do not have any clients in our dark store, we have the benefit of not caring about redecorating our space and focus on functionality instead. Our dark store is located in a basement, with single-color walls and nicely-packed shelves. We have also learned how to optimize the working hours of our employees depending on the demand, the weather conditions, and the day of the week. After all, even our customers’ news feeds can affect the demand.

The money saved on inexpensive rent and the lack of additional employees (security guards, cashiers, cleaners, etc.) makes it possible to keep a staff of delivery people and offer customers free delivery.

“The dark store team consists of a supervisor, one picker, and 2-8 deliverymen depending on demand. In total, the dark store’s headcount goes up to 50 people since couriers often work a couple of hours a week,” the co-founder notes.

Launch in Ukraine

After a year of work in Minsk, Bazar was launched in Kyiv, on the territory of the housing estate Comfort Town.

“For our pilot project in Kyiv, we have chosen Comfort Town as an area with a high density of our target audience. Currently, we are getting ready to launch the second delivery zone. It took us two months to choose and prepare the premises, to purchase the equipment, and to sign agreements with the suppliers.”

We chose Ukraine for several reasons. Among them are low competitiveness in the dark store market, the high population density in the cities, and the similarity of the food baskets of Ukrainians and Belarusians.

“We do global business, so we develop in different markets at the same time. We need to be among the first to enter the market. There are very few competitors in the Ukrainian dark store market. Besides, the consumer basket of Belarusians and Ukrainians is very similar, which simplifies our project launch and management. We see great prospects for our model in the Ukrainian market: 4 million-strong cities, dense urban development, well-developed domestic production of food and non-food products. Even in the range of Belarusian dark stores, there are categories where Ukrainian producers prevail over Belarusian ones,” said Pavel Samolazov.

Investments and regional outreach plan

We have invested about $100,000 at the current stage, not counting development costs, to launch the pilot in Ukraine. The angel investors were Belarusian businessmen from the real sector.

“The plan in Kyiv for the next year is to open 30 delivery zones and enter the regions. Now, we are actively looking for premises in Kyiv’s densely populated areas and new buildings. But, what may be interesting to people, they will not always know about our presence, even if we are only a few meters away. We occupy shops with no windows – sometimes they are semi-basement premises with an area of 60-120 square meters. So, our neighbors often do not even realize we are there.”

Besides, the company plans to launch the first dark store points in the regions of Ukraine this year. The priorities are Kharkiv and Lviv. In the next two years, the company plans to invest about $2.5 million in the scaling of the Ukrainian segment and up to $5 million in total.

Dark store range

You can make an order through a mobile app available for both Android and iOS. All stores are open from 8 am to 11 pm and have about 1,500 SKUs, but the company plans to expand them to 2,500.

Bazar tries not to make the range too large – so that clients stay comfortable with the catalog of products and do not have to spend an hour choosing milk out of 10 brands. At the same time, clients can influence the product range via a feedback form or social media because the range has to meet the clients’ needs to the greatest extent possible.

Interestingly, in Belarus, Bazar does not sell alcohol due to a law that prohibits selling it in online stores. In Ukraine, there is no such restriction, but the decision to start selling alcohol has not yet been made.

“The most popular question from our customers is: When will beer be on sale? In Ukraine, we see a large range of alcohol in popular delivery services and online stores of retail chains. Although there is no clear law that allows this. This is probably the biggest difference between the Belarusian and Ukrainian markets. We are working on the alcohol issue and are ready to add it to the range soon, especially since there is demand,” said the co-founder of Bazar.