Starting April 28, India will see the roll-out of as many as 10 lakh Suraksha Stores over 45 days, which will be designed as per the COVID-19 safety regulations laid by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. The Suraksha Store could be your nearby grocer or chemist, whose store will be managed by one of the 12 leading FMCG companies (the likes of Nestle, HUL, ITC and Mondelez) that the government has partnered with. Each FMCG major has been assigned two-three states where it would set up and manage the Suraksha Stores. ITC, for instance, has been assigned Karnataka and parts of Tamil Nadu. "ITC welcomes this excellent initiative and is happy to participate in it," says a senior ITC spokesperson. The FMCG majors were given a deadline of enrolling at least 1 lakh stores in the states assigned to them by April 14.
So, how will a Suraksha Store look? To begin with, every Suraksha Store will have a poster at the entrance, so that the consumer is aware that she is entering a sanitised store. Details of Suraksha Stores will also be available on the government's Aarogya Setu app. With social distancing becoming the new norm, the Suraksha stores will have stickers or chalk-marked waiting spots maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres. Similarly, the billing counter will also have sticker marks of 1.5-metre gap in order to avoid crowding. While the store staff will obviously be wearing protective gears, masks and gloves, the shoppers will also be given masks and asked to wash their hands with sanitiser before entering the store. The store counter, POS machines, doorknob and shopping baskets will be sanitised once in four hours. There will also be trash cans outside each store to dispose the masks.
The FMCG majors will carry out this initiative with the help of not just their employees but also their distributors. The spokesperson of a leading FMCG company says that they have already begun training the retailers which have enrolled with them. "We welcome the government's move to set up Suraskha Stores across the country to ensure consumers have continued access to essential items and other daily necessities. We are proud to partner with the government and are implementing it in the states allotted to us through our wide network of distributor salesmen," says a senior HUL spokesperson.
The consumers will also be encouraged to make online payments and asked to pick up their merchandise from an unmanned counter in order to facilitate contactless transactions. Sameer Shukla, West Market Leader (South Asia), Nielsen Global Connect, considers the Suraksha Store initiative to be a great strategic tie-up for the FMCG majors. "In the new normal, most brands in order to win the trust of their consumers will need to communicate why their products and supply chains should be trusted. Suraksha Stores will be a good way of conveying that message."