How Covid-19 lockdown and digitization has changed your neighborhood kirana store

It is no rocket science that even the kirana store owners will have to up the ante in order to survive the cut throat competition from big conglomerates. (Photo source: Bloomberg)

By Sonakshi Nathani

The initial months of Covid-19 pandemic brought to the fore the vulnerability of e-commerce giants and delivery apps as they couldn’t deliver daily essentials to the consumers during tough lockdown times. However, local kirana stores saved the day by maintaining a near-steady supply of daily items and ensured that people are not devoid of essential commodities in midst of an outbreak of a terrible virus.

While this episode displayed the resilience of small grocery stores, it also renewed the trust of consumers on the shops in their colonies/societies. The recent ‘Sentiments of India’ survey revealed that 79% of the responding traders in non-metros and 50% in metros confirmed that there are new consumers coming to their stores post the lockdown period.

Additionally,this pandemic also prompted the kirana store owners to adopt technology more swiftly. Today, more and more kirana store owners are leveraging apps to multiply their business and in making their business processes smoother. As Much as 58% surveyed traders in the metros and 46% in the non-metros are convinced that they need to shift to digitization due to Covid-19, the survey ads.

The gaps

With Consumers going digital and online orders becoming a trend, kirana store owners had started receiving orders via messages or WhatsApp in large numbers even before the outbreak of this pandemic. And though this new consumer behavior has increased sales for kiranas, the issues that adversely impacted customer service are — coordination and management. It becomes extremely cumbersome and confusing for shop owners to keep log of the customers’ order. Human errors like— missing delivery of some items or orders getting mixed, among others — become frequent as kiranas receive orders in bulk all throughout the day.

Thus,there is certainly a need to bridge this gap. However, the crucial point to keep in mind is — the solutions should remain custom designed — as not all kirana owners are tech savvy and a majority of those who work at these stores are school dropouts, who usually don’t have much technical expertise.

In Recent past, many apps have mushroomed for facilitating the business processes of kirana store owners. However, a majority of them were not well received because of two primary reasons — they were just made to make money and didn’t had the tools required to actually solve the issues faced by kirana owners, and these apps were too complex for a person without expertise of accounts or technology.

The fix

It is no rocket science that even the kirana store owners will have to up the ante in order to survive the cut throat competition from big conglomerates. To This end, they can switch to user-friendly apps to ensure that the intake of orders, delivery of products, and transactions are smooth.

Leveraging Technology will help grocery store owners, wholesalers, manufacturers, and retailers to reform according to the times and the needs of consumers while keeping their essence intact. It is also upon the app developers to keep their subscription charges budget friendly so that even the small shop owners can benefit.

Needless To say, the entrepreneurs should not overlook sub-urban markets as kirana stores are all the more popular in small towns when compared to the big metros.With high internet penetration in Tier II and Tier III cities, traders in small cities are as much prepared for business transformation as those in urban areas.

The way ahead

According To a recent EY report, 20 percent of the kirana store owners across metros and non-metros have started leveraging online platforms and this figure is increasing steadily. The findings can be seen as the curtain raiser to the future of kirana stores. They have already begun contactless delivery and accepting online payments and very soon, a high percentage of these neighborhood shops will join the digital bandwagon and be just one click away from their users.

(The author is Co-founder, Bikayi. Views expressed are personal.)

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