How kirana stores can embrace digital to their advantage

October 9, 2020 10:54 AM

E-commerce retailers are essentially reliant on the local kirana shops for clearing the lockdown induced last-mile hurdles

Various companies are extending utility solutions to millions of small shopkeepers and kirana stores by offering them ways to simplify and digitise their daily workVarious companies are extending utility solutions to millions of small shopkeepers and kirana stores by offering them ways to simplify and digitise their daily work

By Ravish Naresh

The recent advancements in technology have permeated almost every industry vertical. The rapid rise of e-commerce can be safely attributed to digitisation being embraced by sellers and consumers alike. Covid-19 has played a crucial role in forcing people to shift to digital pathways, even when it comes to shopping for groceries. But, at the same time, the pandemic and the proceeding lockdowns have obstructed the supply chain dynamics of various e-tailers and e-marketers. Even small-time shop owners and local kirana stores are in the process of switching to the online medium to service their consumers better.

This challenging time has catalysed a new symbiotic delivery model between etailers and the humble brick-and-mortar stores. This newly built relationship has something for both of them. E-commerce retailers are essentially reliant on the local kirana shops for clearing the lockdown induced last-mile hurdles. At the same time, the local mom-and-pop stores are optimising the former’s technological edge to serve their local customers efficiently.

This novel collaboration, if done well, has the potential to transform the retail sector. Creating alternate delivery channels that extend better service to customers and suppleness in the last-mile supply chain will help kirana stores embrace the necessary digital evolution. This will empower them to cater to the new generation of tech-oriented customers who desire customised services.

Breaking the mould

During this period, the government has urged kirana stores and local merchants to embrace digitisation and become ‘atmanirbhar’ to compete with supermarket chains and e-commerce giants. While the MSME sector is increasingly graduating to the digital model, there are still a number of challenges that exist in their journey towards self-reliance.

Technological adoption is the only way to rise above the damage inflicted by the virus outbreak. A majority of small shop owners and merchants lack the essential awareness in taking this technological leap. Many of them are also distrustful of this abrupt shift in shopping culture. It is up to the government and the various stakeholders to help them make this transition.

However, the cost of ushering in digitisation at the country-wide level is immense for the government. There is also the challenge of breaking the traditional business moulds of local stores and kiranas across the country. They are used to relying on the conventional methods of operation. Making such a comprehensive shift may require them to gain basic technological proficiency.

A smooth transition

Various companies are extending utility solutions to millions of small shopkeepers and kirana stores by offering them ways to simplify and digitise their daily work. Numbers show that the kirana stores are taking these initiatives positively; however, the challenge lies in helping the store owner understand usage and benefits of such digital solutions. Given that anything ‘online’ is looked at with some amount of mistrust in tier II and III towns, the effort lies in helping them get on board safely and effectively.

With an increasing demand for essential commodities and the disruption of supply chain models across the country, it is highly imperative for the countless kirana stores in the country to embrace digitisation. This will not only help them engage with the big ticket players and benefit from their technological architecture, but also equip them with a distinct market persona. With this technological edge, the country’s kirana ecosystem can thrive in the face of current adversity by maintaining business continuity and improving consumer service.

The author is CEO and founder, Khatabook

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