The COVID-19 pandemic has made the kirana store digitisation a reality. With social distancing becoming the norm and consumers not wanting to step out of their homes, the ubiquitous neighbourhood kirana store owner not just delivered products at the consumer's doorstep but also made his merchandise available to her through his app. The consumer has been able to view the kirana store's merchandise online and place her order digitally. While e-commerce marketplaces such as Amazon and BigBasket substantially grew their businesses in the last one year, the humble kirana store owner also did his bit to enable consumers to shop online. A recent report by the retail tech company, SnapBizz, endorses the trend saying over a million kirana stores went digital in 2020.
"Their stores have gone online by accepting online payments, ordering supplies online, managing inventory, etc. The technology cover now enables them to leverage their strengths like proximity, personal touch, and flexibility further to acquire new customers effortlessly," explains Prem Kumar, Founder and CEO, SnapBizz. The report says that around 75 per cent kirana stores are inclined towards having an online presence.
When organised retail came to a halt during the lockdown and supply chain and distribution mechanisms ceased to function, it was the kirana stores that came to the rescue of the consumers. There are myriad instances of kirana store owners physically picking up stocks from distributors and making them available for their consumers. No wonder, the Snapbizz report says that 80 per cent of the kirana stores saw exponential growth in their business. There was a 50 per cent spike in spends in the food category at the kirana stores in March last year, a lot of consumers were hoarding food. Though the percentage of spends on food has dropped over the months, the number of consumers buying food products from kirana stores is 18 per cent higher than the pre-lockdown days.
Kumar of Snapbizz says that the new-age kirana store owner wants to position himself as a one-stop concierge service for his consumers. "Apart from delivering groceries, several kirana store owners have also started offering a basket of other services such as plumbing, electrical and so on. On the SnapBizz network, we have created a link at the backend so that the grocery merchant's catalogue also has meat and fish from a reliable source and the delivery happens." Several kirana stores in Ahmedabad have also started keeping branded pots and pans on display at their stores. If a consumer expresses interest in buying, the kirana store owner sources the product from the brand and delivers it to the consumer's home.
Around 60-70 per cent of the grocery bills in India are below Rs 200, and it is only the good-old neighbourhood grocer who can service orders as low as that. A large e-grocer will need an order size of at least Rs 1,500 to breakeven. The neighbourhood grocer apart from servicing small orders is now getting ready to fight the onslaught of the deep-pocketed organised retail biggies by offering a plethora of other services.