Modern Marketing Brand Strategy Fast-Growth Brands

How Swiggy got its teeth into India’s growing appetite for food delivery

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By Amit Bapna | Editor-at-large

February 17, 2022 | 9 min read

As part of The Drum’s latest Deep Dive, Marketing Secrets of Fast-Growth Brands, we look at Swiggy’s massive success as an on-demand platform in India.

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Swiggy has been on a massive growth journey

Swiggy, India’s leading on-demand delivery platform, has been on a massive growth journey since it was founded in Bengaluru in 2014 by Sriharsha Majety, Nandan Reddy and Rahul Jaimini.

Not too long ago, the food delivery experience in India was riddled with issues, such as unpredictability, high delivery charges and limited payment options. What was missing was an aggregator platform that was scalable and sustainable, with a personalized user interface and a robust logistics back-end.

Swiggy – and its competitor Zomato, to a great extent – provided the answer. “For the very first time in the food delivery sector in India, there was a single party taking end-to-end control of food ordering and delivery,“ recalls Shares Ashish Lingamneni, Swiggy’s vice-president of marketing. The result was ”better convenience, more food choices and fast delivery times”.

Swiggy’s razor-sharp focus on consumer-centricity and enabling a superior experience, along with a mindset to continuously keep innovating on behalf of the customer, has helped it become the leading online food delivery platform, he adds.

Harish Bijoor is a brand consultant. Explaining the growth of the category, he says: “Food is a big thing in an India on the rise, and food from the restaurant is an even bigger draw!“ This, “added to the pandemic that locked people in,” has meant a cocktail of frenetic growth for food delivery apps, Swiggy and Zomato included, he adds.

Life beyond just a food delivery brand

PG Aditya is the former chief creative officer at Dentsu Webchutney, a creative partner of Swiggy. He says: “The brand first reliably catered to its ’number one’ fan – the time-starved, cooking-averse, tech-friendly urban immigrant – and once the bet on this audience group paid off, Swiggy made a conscious effort to ’build occasions’ for ordering in across multiple audience groups: families, couples, office groups etc.”

What started off as a journey focused on food delivery has come a long way since. As per reports, non-food categories now account for over a fourth of Swiggy’s business volumes. These include Swiggy Instamart (quick commerce grocery service), Swiggy Genie (pick up and drop service) and Supr Daily (Swiggy’s daily grocery delivery service). Alongside the brand also launched Swiggy One as India’s first comprehensive membership program.

Swiggy’s Instamart offering was launched in August 2020 on the back of the pandemic-led pivoting of the business model to service instant delivery of groceries and daily essentials for the time-pressed, convenience seeking urban consumers. The hyperlocal delivery offering unlocked a new dimension of convenience in the times of social distancing for consumers as well as earnings for the delivery partners. Currently, it is live in 19 cities with over 200 seller-run stores.

According to Lingamneni: “Growth from the year ahead will come from continuing to drive penetration across food and Instamart while also driving more engagement with our customers.”

The express grocery delivery business Instamart has had more than 2 million transacting users clocking a million orders a week. The delivery category has been a keenly contested one with many players eyeing it keenly for its potential. These include Zomato-backed Blinkit, Reliance-backed Dunzo, Flipkart, Amazon and Tata-owned BigBasket.

Swiggy Genie is a new offering that was launched to let consumers pick up anything from groceries to laundry to sending across home-cooked food or supplies to friends and family.

Secret sauce: creative and relevant marketing

Along with the product innovation and ongoing pivot of the business model, Swiggy has also been at the forefront with its marketing playbook. Its campaigns over the years have been talked about for their engaging creative storytelling, where creativity and relevance have both been addressed.

Elaborates Lingamneni: “The role of marketing at Swiggy has been to accelerate the category creation and brand salience while also building a distinctive and iconic brand.” This is done by understanding the path to purchase and moments of truth of consumers and identifying core insights that the brand would want to leverage, coupled with a very distinctive, fun and quirky but universally relatable tone of voice, he adds. After all, it is a brand whose target audience spans from an 18-year-old teenager to a 55-year-old empty-nester, which is a large customer-cohort to address.

Bijoor, meanwhile, says: “Marketing for Swiggy is the discount, the Super program and, overall, its ability to deliver fast and make amends on faulty deliveries faster than the fastest.” Speed is the marketing nomenclature to operate within this space, and Swiggy did it well, he adds. Quick commerce is the norm the brand has lived up to so far.

Evolution of Swiggy’s advertising journey

For a long time, great food advertising has largely been the monopoly of global restaurant chains. In such a landscape, the creative charter for a brand like Swiggy meant “giving room for all conversations around food to have their moment in the sun,” says Aditya, who has worked on the brand for many years till recently.

In his view, it has paid off across mediums, especially on digital where the brand enjoys a captive fan base. “From an overall mind-measure standpoint, especially in urban areas, Swiggy’s a visible part of a city’s culture with the Swiggy delivery executives riding their bikes or restaurants with the branding dotting the urban landscape of many cities and towns.”

The consumer demand for the delivery as a category went through the roof, especially during the pandemic with people being locked in at home more than ever. The category witnessed more action than ever on the demand-delivery front. While people were placing more orders for food, grocery and the rest, the marketing also had to remain relevant and fit the ongoing narrative.

For example, from a marketing point of view, during the peak of the pandemic and post that the brand rather than doing traditional brand campaigns opted for campaigns focused on doing its bit for the consumers and the restaurant and delivery partner ecosystem. TS Srivats, former-vice president of marketing at Swiggy, previously told The Drum: “The pre-lockdown and early lockdown focused on the hygiene and safety precautions, later moving to convey the consumers how ordering-in is safe and what precautions could be followed.” The communication was crafted keeping the consumer sentiment in mind at that time.

Looking at the mood of the nation at that time, the brand launched ‘Hope not Hunger’ campaign to help the needy, wherein Swiggy partnered with various commercial kitchens, NGOs and state governments to provide daily meals to thousands of underprivileged, daily wagers and stranded migrant laborers who had limited access to nutritious food during the lockdown.

Says Lingamneni: “Marketing has furthered the brand’s point of view and voice, whether it was towards our ecosystem or through social commentary.” Examples include ‘What’s in a Name’, where the brand wanted to encourage customers to address delivery partners by their name, and the more recent ‘Instamart Cookbook’, which encouraged people – especially couples – to cook together and break the gender stereotypes.

To its credit, Swiggy’s creative campaigns have kept the counter buzzing, not just with their creative streak but have picked metals at Cannes Lions as well. The consistent tone of voice and the quirkiness that the brand continued to deliver across touchpoints made its marketing memorable.

Shares Lingamneni: “Our in-house creative studio has scaled up over time to become a source of creative prowess for us. With talent spanning across copy, art and even production and animation, it allows us to move very fast when required. Interestingly, over the last wave, we have even managed to do video shoots from homes of our teams to address certain urgent requirements.”

Along with the internal resourcing, the brand has had some strong external agencies and creative partners as well, across integrated campaigns and social media. Adds Lingamneni: “Great ideas often require deep context as well as the bar-raising creative ability and working with our creative teams both internal and external over a longer period of time gives us access to both.”

As the brand moves to its next phase of growth and expansion, it would need to keep recalibrating its product offerings and marketing plans in its journey to becoming an urban convenience superapp.

Shares Lingamneni: “We do expect competitive intensity across categories we operate in, but that’s always good in accelerating overall category growth and maturity.”

The brand plans to continue to deliver a strong customer experience and build a strong brand while staying true to its mission of enabling unparalleled convenience, he adds the coming year.

For more Marketing Secrets of Fast-Growth Brands, check out The Drum’s latest Deep Dive.

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