India is undoubtedly unique when it comes to retail grocery stores and over 12 million independent Kiranas support the nation’s retail network.
By Krishnan Menon
India is undoubtedly unique when it comes to retail grocery stores and over 12 million independent Kiranas support the nation’s retail network. In March 2020, when the entire nation went into lockdown, people in most parts of the country relied on the age-old general stores or Kirana stores who continued to provide continuous services even during the pandemic.
Several neighbourhood stores are increasingly becoming tech-savvy and adopting technologically advanced measures to combat the challenges that have come with the Covid19 pandemic. Kiranas have transformed the way they do business. In the absence of other means, many local general stores have designed a simplistic purchase journey leveraging popular messaging applications as a mode of taking orders, offering contactless deliveries, and accepting contactless payments to enable easy transactions and reduce cash exchange.
The pandemic has deepened the consumer’s sense of trust for neighborhood stores, with many new purchasers visiting these stores both in metros and non-metro cities. In fact, a recent survey has stated that 79 per cent of store owners in non-metros and 50 per cent in metros expressed that new buyers are coming to their store post the lockdown.
Consumers who earlier might have preferred to shop online or from supermarkets, are currently inclined towards neighborhood Kirana stores, as they continued to lend a helping hand to avoid long queues outside stores. The advantages are attributable to the accessibility and familiarity of these stores.
Most Kirana store owners in urban areas are reaching out to merchants or stockists themselves and getting the products they need. Since wholesalers can’t carry supplies to stores, owing to the shortage in the workforce and movement controls, these small retailers landed up at their distribution centers to get products themselves.
Large number of Kirana shops are also working with volunteers of Resident Welfare Associations and co-operative housing societies to guarantee availability of food and other essential items. Others are taking orders via WhatsApp or SMS and delivering as and when required, especially for senior citizens living alone.
From wallets to debit/ credit cards to Meal Cards, Kirana store owners pan-India have been at the forefront of digital payments and this has added an aspect of convenience even during the current pandemic. With the drive for contactless payments, QR-code penetration has also grown exponentially especially in Kiranas. With the lockdown, several companies and Kiranas found out an ingenious way to transcend barriers. Soft QRs, sent digitally have been saving the day at the same time rationalizing time and cost for both payment instrument issuers and Kirana store owners. Simultaneously, thousands of virtual cards have ensured uninterrupted access to contactless payments for consumers.
Kirana stores have undoubtedly been at the forefront as people struggled to adapt to the new normal. Our local stores have thought on their feet and implemented a variety of measures to enable access to essential items for people who otherwise would have had a tough time.
- Krishnan Menon is Vice President & Head — Merchant Business, Sodexo Benefits & Rewards India.