Can MandiExpress replace the Sabzi Mandi experience?

Can MandiExpress replace the Sabzi Mandi experience?

MandiExpress is an online grocery store that lets you get fresh produce delivered to your doorstep
Updated 22 Dec, 2016

Like most Pakistani millennials, I spend so much time glued to a computer screen (studying or working) that I lack the basic skills required to shop for quality food items at reasonable prices from the open market.

And because I'm not used to buying my fruits and veggies, keeping an eye out for quality while effectively bargaining can be a daunting task.

This is where MandiExpress seemed attractive, with its promise of bringing the virtual Sabzi Mandi to the comfort of my home.

The brainchild of Jehanzeb Chaudhri and Danyaal Balkhi, MandiExpress is an online solution for your grocery shopping needs. Their idea is to connect small-scale farmers to the consumers by eliminating middlemen, thereby maximising profits for farmers. They also promise that customers get fresh products delivered to their doorsteps.

An easy interface

The website itself features a sleek and modern design, with the colour scheme enhancing its aesthetic appeal.

The MandiExpress homepage — Screengrab
The MandiExpress homepage — Screengrab

The homepage features some of their products, discount codes and a list of best-selling products.

Navigation is seamless and responsive, with each selection loading within the same webpage, making the browsing experience faster.

The downside is that you can’t open multiple page tabs from the website. You will have to open the site again, each time in a new tab and navigate to the required section each time. It's too much work if you're looking to get the job done quickly.

A particularly eye-catching section on the left sidebar is ‘Popular Tags’ which lists some of the common uses of different products. Some of the listed tags here are ‘anaemia’, ‘anti-cancer’, ‘anti-dementia’, ‘anti-nausea’, among others. So if you are looking for foods that have a particular benefit, this section will take you to the relevant products.

The ordering and shipping guidelines, return policy, discount codes and other vital information is prominently displayed on the website, limiting ambiguity for new users.

The catalogue has a lot to offer

The catalogue is extensive and includes many items you won’t find at your local vendor.

The start-up offers the expected vegetables and fruits to its customers but also adds seafood, meat products, spices, sauces, pickles, juices, and specialised foods for health conscious consumers.

Surprisingly, it also offers an extensive range of dairy products.

Salad leaves and peas from MandiExpress
Salad leaves and peas from MandiExpress

The catalogue lists the name of vegetables, fruits, and meat products in English as well as in Urdu, eliminating the language barrier that still exists across most of the internet.

The fruit section too includes many fruits that are not commonly available at fruits stalls around the city, including pineapple, kiwis, avocados, blueberries and raspberries.

The service offers users two quality grades for most fruits. The normal quality and the Grade-A quality, which is also known as ‘Darja Awwal’ or ‘Aik Number’ in the open market.

For a slightly higher price, you can get the item conveniently delivered to your home, eliminating the chance of being deceived by a local vendor into paying a higher price.

Prices are competitive (minus seafood)

Most of the rates are likely to be the same as your local street vendor. But while there is little to no difference between the market and website rates for fruits and vegetables, the prices of seafood can be considerably higher than your local shops.

According to Chaudhri, the reason for this is that all seafood is procured from an exporter to ensure freshness and quality.

Upon surveying the meat market, I found the rates of beef, poultry and mutton to be just marginally higher than the local market, which is expected considering the clean, hygienic meat you get without having to stand at the local butcher.

Ordering is a breeze

The ease with which you can navigate the website and place your order sets MandiExpress apart from its competitors.

On the right sidebar, the shopping cart updates in real-time as you add or remove items without having to reload a new page each time. This makes the process of checkout quick and efficient. The order form at checkout also gives you the option to leave comments or special instructions for the rider.

Spinach and tomatoes from MandiExpress
Spinach and tomatoes from MandiExpress

Although the website informs users of a Rs30 delivery charge per order, it is currently waived for an unspecified time period as part of a 'promotional offer'.

One setback experienced was while trying to add or remove items from the basket. Sometimes the operation fails even when the Internet connection is working.

Delivery ups and downs

MandiExpress offers three time slots for delivery. You can have your items delivered between 8am to 11am, 12pm to 3.30pm, and 5.30pm to 9pm.

For delivery on a particular day, you are required to place your order before 2am. So if you want your product on 10 December at 11am, you can place your order latest by 2am on the same date. If you place your order at 3am, it will be delivered on 11 December.

The website offers returns within 48 hours of delivery for any non-meat products. For meat-based products that are unfit for consumption, you can inspect and return them at the time of delivery.

Bananas and apples from MandiExpress
Bananas and apples from MandiExpress

In order to test the quality of their products and service, we ordered several fresh items. Our shopping cart included the following items:

  • Banana (Kela) (Grade A)
  • Golden Apple Grade A
  • Pea (Matar)
  • Salad Leaves (Salad Patta)
  • Spinach (Palak)
  • Tomato (Tamator)
  • Pieced Chicken (Boti)

In total, these seven items cost Rs837, which was reduced to Rs711.45 after applying a 15% discount code for first time users.

Since I reside in Gulistan-e-Johar, Karachi, I couldn’t get the items delivered to my home as it falls outside of MandiExpress’ delivery zone. This forced me to have the items delivered to a friend’s place. Currently, the company only offers delivery in four areas of Karachi: DHA, Clifton, KDA, and PECHS.

According to Mr Chaudhri, they have recently started delivering to Gulshan-e-Iqbal and North Nazimabad but have not made the announcement official as it remains in testing phase.

Products are impressive

Overall, I was impressed by the packaging and presentation of the delivered items. I should add, however, that I was disappointed by the lack of effort in packing the chicken. While the fruits and vegetables were securely sealed, the chicken was delivered in an unsealed plastic bag.

The chicken was delivered in an unsealed plastic bag
The chicken was delivered in an unsealed plastic bag

Most items were true to their description on the website, except for the bananas which didn’t have the appearance of a Grade-A product. Nevertheless, they were clean, fresh, and tasted great (not using the word 'fine', because they were super sweet and just the right texture). To my surprise, one of the apples turned out to be bad from the inside.

The bad apple
The bad apple

The vegetables were all neatly packed and fresh. Nothing was soggy, nor did any item appear stale. Overall, it was good to see the delivered items live up to the website's ambitious claims of freshness.


I will definitely be making use of the service on a regular basis as soon as they begin delivering in my area, provided that the company overcomes the few shortcomings I experienced.

If you are looking to get into online grocery shopping, MandiExpress seems like a safe bet. You may, at times, find some rates to be relatively higher, but they aren’t exorbitant. Additionally, the quality for the most part is pretty great.

Packing and presentation: 8/10

Quality: 9/10

Rates: 8/10

Overall user experience: 9/10

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Adeel Saleem Dec 21, 2016 03:23pm
Saqib Ahmed Shah Dec 21, 2016 03:38pm
Website is showing "No products found in this cateogry.", I think waste of marketing by this article, such a vital communication but web is not working!
Feroze Danish Dec 21, 2016 03:41pm
I never get satisfied by anyone picking up fruits and veges for me ! It has to be me to examine, test, taste, check them before buying. Good idea but not for me till I am young enough to go out and buy.
Indus civilization Dec 21, 2016 03:43pm
Not viable in short run.... In India many online grocery store shut down within a year... Heavy financing and better margin products required to sustain.
Naveed Dec 21, 2016 05:34pm
This business model has had limited success in the US market - despite quality standards and efficient services. Europeans, Latin Americans, Asians still like to go to produce stalls, and farmer's market to touch, feel, smell and experience the ambiance of selecting your food supplies that no online business can replace.
Zeeshan Malik Dec 21, 2016 05:42pm
Good initiative but immature launch. Website has lot of glitches and it takes ages to load products.
M.Malik Dec 21, 2016 05:45pm
Those sorry-looking, over-ripe and bruised bananas will never be found in any grocery stores anywhere in the Middle East, Europe, South Asia and North America. That alone tells you about the quality of the supplier.
saeeds Dec 21, 2016 07:02pm
Good for western countries where person live by himself busy all kind of activities. In this region we have big family where someone nothing to do. Or servant or driver available. And Sabzi walla or phal walla comes every day or standing every corners.
Khalid Dec 21, 2016 11:27pm
I hope they use "chilled food & meat delivery service vehicles"
Wow ahmed Dec 21, 2016 11:40pm
Thought the scoring was rather high. Be interested to know how the prices compared with the market. Early days, limited appeal.
Yasir SUltan Dec 22, 2016 01:05am
Selling produce online is a bad idea, if Amazon and Walmart cannot sell produce online no one can. I order all kinds of things online except produce, have to feel it.
Muhammad usman khan Dec 22, 2016 11:20am
Just wastage of time and money. How you will be sure that food is fresh or not. These online stores make you lazy. It is fun when you go outside for grocery. You can check the food quality before you buy, Even sometimes to buy the book online is risky unless you have seen it somewhere else in library or in friends house. They are just deceiving people.
SaDia Dec 22, 2016 08:40pm
I ordered from mandiexpress and had my reservations, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the fruits and vegetables. It was fresh which was greaaat! The fact that I did not have to spend my time browsing at a store and can just order my list a day before saves me a lot of time. As a working mother of two, it's exactly what I need! Although I agree the meat can be packaged better because the other products are packed really well.
kit kit Dec 23, 2016 04:53am
all wrapped in plastic . More landfill that will not erode pretty much ever