Life Before Instamart

My tryst with Instamart started more recently and only when we were travelling ….. was there a life before Instamart ? The following blogpost captures my sedate life before the “15 minute” delivery revolution.

Long back… in Dec 2012 when we shifted to Bangalore for a short stint, we visited Arun and Vidya’s house. Her fridge was full of neatly stored vegetables and that’s when she introduced us to Big Basket. I immediately started ordering groceries and vegetables on Big Basket, life was good and I wondered how it was before Big Basket :). As with all things that start out well, Big Basket too was outstanding for a long time (4 to 5 years) before trying to improve their margins at the cost of quality. Promise Vs Reality – Big Basket 🙁

Once we got back home to Gurgaon in 2014, I continued ordering from Big Basket, till some of our neighbours started talking of Milk Basket. When I enquired I realised that Milk Basket delivered your orders before 7 am the next day. It was a huge improvement over the delivery slots of Big Basket. I distinctly remember the reason I shifted to Milk Basket – my favourite 24 Letter Mantra Poha vanished from Big Basket. They would only stock their branded products and not 24 Letter Mantra !

I continue to use Milk Basket, that has been bought out by Reliance now. Their stocking continues to be good. Over these 7 to 8 years I have tried using other apps to get things delivered home. Ofcourse Amazon Fresh got added during this period and I have always liked Amazon. Life was good, till we started seeing these delivery guys from Swiggy and Blinkit criss crossing our walking path inside the condominium !

Is your phone overflowing with apps ? Big Basket, Milk Basket, Swiggy, Tomato, Blinkit (formerly Grofers), Zepto, Tata 1MG, etc etc ? This explosion of delivery apps has led to several accidents on the road because everyone now wants things delivered instantly :(. I never thought I would use these 15 minute delivery apps, till we went on this recent long trip.

In all metro cities – Chennai, Hyderabad and Vizag I was able to get milk, groceries, vegetables and fruits delivered to our place of stay using Instamart ! Some times when I was able to plan better, I took the “deliver later” option but most of the time, as soon as we reached a particular city, we needed at least milk and curd to be delivered instantly.

While these 15 minute delivery apps are a rage, there has to be some sort of policy intervention to ensure drivers’ safety and avoiding accidents. The Blinkit and Instamart guys just take any shortcut to deliver in time … often driving on the wrong side of the road :(. They do wear the helmet, but what about the pedestrian ?

See the picture below. My friend Giri had tweeted about this –

Life - Instamart

Would urge all these 15 minute delivery app companies to ensure their drivers are following traffic rules. And certainly urging the Government to intervene and bring some rules that keep the pedestrians and the drivers safe.

If you have wondered about how this whole delivery apps world started, here is a fascinating Twitter thread by @TheKaipullai. Do read !

The Kaipullai - on delivery apps

Today, we are all spoilt by apps. From Taxis to milk, Apps deliver everything, right to your doorstep. 

Apps today, are indispensable. 

What if I tell you, that this was possible, because of the threat of nuclear war, a navigational error by an airline Pilot and Bill Clinton.
It all started in 1957, when out of nowhere, the Soviet Union launched the world’s first satellite, the Sputnik. 

Suddenly, the whole concept of Warfare shifted, & people started fearing that Soviets could launch a nuclear weapon from Space and there was nothing the US could do.
Amidst that Panic, two American physicists, William Guier and George Weiffenbach, stumbled onto something, that they never knew, would have massive ramifications.

What they did, was to track the radio signals from Sputnik.
They realized, with this, they could track the position of the Satellite. 

Probably Thinking that this will give them a promotion and a salary hike, they rushed to their Boss, Frank McClur. 

Now bosses being bosses, instead of appreciation, he threw another problem at them.
Just like how they found a satellite’s position from earth. He asked them if they could find out a user’s position, using a satellite. 

And they delivered. 

In 1960, the first forerunner of GPS, a system called Transit, was successfully launched.
Thru the 60s and 70s, the US kept incrementally improving on Transit. 

But whatever they did, was too slow for the requirements of the US Navy and Air Force. 

They wanted more. A lot more. 

So the scientists went back to the drawing board. And came back with the winner.
On Paper, They came back with a superior system of Satellites, to give pin point location to anyone, anywhere on the planet. 

This system was called Navigation System Using Timing and Ranging. Or Navstar. However, we know it by another name. 

However, there was a catch. 

The system was too expensive, and the US Congress was not approving it. So, the US Govt did the next logical thing.

They said, it was needed to prevent the threat of nuclear annihilation.

And when you say Nuclear, pretty much anything is approved.
So they approved it. 

Starting 1978, a constellation of 10 Satellites was deployed, with a plan to expand it to 24, was launched. 

Initially the whole system was restricted to the military and was not open to civilians. 

It all changed on 1st September 1983.
A Korean Airlines flight, KAL 007, took off from JFK Airport in New York at 12:30 AM, for a routine flight to Seoul. 

It had 269 people, including some US Senators. 

After refuelling at Anchorage in Alaska, it took off into the fog and the Pacific Ocean.
Little did people know, that it was taking off for the last time.

On 1st of August, while flying off the coast of Soviet Union near Sakhalin, the plane was shot down by a Soviet Fighter jet.

Apparently, it was intruding into Soviet Airspace, and didn’t respond to their warnings
Initially US went ballistic, threatening to Bring democracy to eastern Russia. 

But during investigation it was found, that the Pilot had made a navigational error, which resulted in them flying into Soviet air space. 

It was a ghastly incident but a purely unfortunate one.
And they found one more thing. 

The whole thing could have been avoided if the pilots had access to GPS. 

So, in a momentous and amongst the few good decisions that Ronald Reagan made, he decided to make the whole of GPS available to all civilians.
Now normal people could also get access to superior GPS based navigation. So everyone was happy. Right? 

No. There was a catch. 

The Civilian GPS had an error margin of 100 mts, as compared to the more precise military version.  

It was called Selective Availability.
This ensured US Military had an advantage. but made mass use of GPS impractical. 

Imagine you calling a cab, and it arrives 100 mtrs away. And this remained a problem, till 2000.

On 1st of May 2000, Bill Clinton decided to turn off Selective availability.
He decided that all civilians should enjoy the awesomeness of precise GPS.

The supposed reasons why he did it are many. Some say, the US felt opening GPS will spur the technology. Or US was aware that it was pointless to hide it anymore.

But there was a third reason. Elections
You see, Al Gore had launched his presidency campaign for 2000. And Clinton felt that this will give him a leg up over the other contender, a certain George Bush. Al Gore even announced the next version of GPS.

Unfortunately for him, it didn’t work.
Thanks to Florida and some fraud ballots, Al gore lost the elections. 

But what we got, was unfiltered and awesome GPS. 

Then, Advancement in semiconductor allowed us to put GPS receivers in Phones, which allowed them to plot the exact location of the device.
Which was the feature that all our apps have exploited to get us the Hot Pizza that we want and the Taxis that we need, right to our doorstep. Sometimes, in 10 minutes

It has changed our lives.  

And It took a plane crash and an election sop by Bill Clinton, to get us there.

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