Photo by John Nakano

A group of Tech Mechanical Engineering students have banded together to create a service that would allow other Tech students to order their groceries online and have them delivered right to their door.  The students were part of a new, special topics pilot course, ME 2803.

“What they’re doing is they’re teaching you customer discovery and ideation through a method that has been done by a lot of entrepreneurs,” said third-year ME major Pultik Agarwal. “So what we did was we came up with the idea and then we had to actually go out and interview 10 people every single week and asked them about what they thought of the idea.”

The group consisted of Agarwal, Alex Weiss, Julian Knight, Sylvia Zhang and Dorrier Coleman, all third-year ME students.

The process allows the group to get a sense of how Tech students would respond to their product and its potential success on campus. By doing so, it allowed the group to look at and reevaluate their ideas to suit the better population of Tech’s campus.

“Our initial idea was not grocery delivery service. Our initial idea was an umbrella-sharing program at Tech, so when you walk out of a building, you pull an umbrella out [of a kiosk], walk to another building and then put it back into another kiosk,” said Agarwal.

Through the questioning, though, the team redirected their focus, which is where they came up with the idea for food delivery service. The group conducted a round of tests to see how students would respond to the service.

“It served 20 students within a span of two weeks. We had the most amount of people used the delivery system the first week,” said Agarwal.

That number of students may seem low, but as Agarwal points out, that number is significant.

“The 20 is indicative of the product. 20 people saw it, and 20 people used it,” said Agarwal. “People used a Google Doc to order. The trust factor was really small, and the barrier to entry was really large, but 20 people still made it over.”

This isn’t the first organization to offer a service of this type.

“India Club on Tech’s campus also does this, but it’s specifically for Indian groceries and their volumes have been much greater and their services are more developed as well,” said Agarwal.

The service for students is currently closed, but Agarwal again points out there is still potential in the service with some tweaking to the focus of the service.

“Recently, we found out that we don’t just want to target students, but we want to target to their parents because students don’t want to spend [money], but parents would love to buy healthy food for [them],” said Agarwal.

If the group turns the focus on the parents, it might turn into something even bigger.

“From this class, what we learn is, we don’t want to develop something that doesn’t have potential, but what does have potential is marketing to students’ parents,” said Agarwal. “Especially with finals coming up, what is better than a care package from your parents?”

Ultimately, the service for students would be nice, but for Agarwal and others, the takeaway from the class is just as valuable.

“To the students, make sure that you’re doing more than just your classes because this entrepreneurship has taught our group a lot… I would tell them to get more involved than just classes because this is the only time that you’re going to have to do it.”

Agarwal himself is an innovation enthusiast and has previously competed in the Inventure Prize. He hopes to continue to discover ways to change the world at Tech.