A Twin Cities service focuses on delivering groceries in an eco-friendly and affordable way.
Bharat Pulgam believes there’s a better way to get your groceries—a cheaper, more efficient eco-friendlier way—and he’s rolling his idea out to the Twin Cities, one ZIP code at a time.
The Maple Grove resident is the CEO of Buncha, a grocery delivery app that offers prescheduled service for a set delivery fee of $1.45. “You can count on the schedule,” Pulgam says. For example, Monday might be Costco, Tuesday could be Target, Wednesday might be Aldi … You get the gist.
“It’s like the milkman for your favorite stores,” Pulgam says.
And because deliveries are aggregated by neighborhood, the company is able to keep down costs and carbon emissions. “That way, we’re able to bring delivery service to more Americans,” Pulgam says.
Pulgam has been an entrepreneur since he was 14 years old when he developed and produced a modular, earbud-style headphone. He graduated from Wayzata High School in 2017 and went on to study business at the University of Minnesota. Two years into college, he came up with his next big idea. “The idea for the company was Pikup,” Pulgam says. “It’s like, ‘Hey, I’m going to the grocery store, do you need anything?’ because in the dorms, no one has cars.”
Pulgam teamed up with friends from high school to develop the idea. They secured “a couple hundred thousand dollars” from preseed investors. “Then we dropped out of school to go full-time.” That was 2019, and everything was looking up until the pandemic struck. “Then, nobody was in the dorms,” he says.
The setback was only temporary, however. As Pulgam waited out the pandemic at the family’s Maple Grove home, his mom provided inspiration for the evolution of Pikup. One day, she asked him to go to Costco, but he didn’t want to go for just one order. “She said, ‘Well then, what good are you?’” he says.
Pulgam ended up putting a post online for their neighborhood HOA, seeing if anyone else had orders they’d like picked up at the same time. He kept posting, and soon he had nine orders, then 30 orders. “I realized college students were great, but it’s people with kids who really need it,” Pulgam says.
With the software in hand from their first go-round, Pulgam and his co-founders retooled their efforts and, for two years, their service focused on neighbors picking up orders for neighbors. Then, in 2022, Pikup became Buncha, and the service transitioned to a driver-based delivery service with the idea being to “get a buncha people to order together at the same time, to help them save money together,” he says.
Pulgam says they only charge a standard $1.45 delivery fee, and they guarantee store prices. Buncha makes its money through retailer relationships—the retailers pay a commission on each sale. He notes that their drivers are all full-time employees in order to maintain a high-quality service.
Today, Buncha is a 50-person team stretched between the Twin Cities headquarters, engineering offices in Delhi and its newest market in Denver. Buncha currently serves much of the Twin Cities and is adding new ZIP codes all the time.
“Seventy percent of people aren’t using grocery delivery,” Pulgam says. “Right now, it’s a luxury.”
Pulgam is committed to changing that and notes that they are working to soon accept SNAP and EBT payments. “I think we have a unique opportunity to provide service in an affordable, efficient way.”