The Walmart statement on its Flipkart purchase made all the right noises. It would create jobs and support 'Make in India'. The statement also mentions the humble kirana: "Among other initiatives, Walmart will partner with kirana owners and members to help modernise their retail practices and adopt digital payment technologies."
The kirana owner has been at the centre of attention for quite some time now. While many assumed organised retail would kill the kirana, these small outlets selling everything from soaps to medicines have grown in importance - large e-commerce firms such as Amazon tap them, either for storage or delivery. Rural e-commerce companies, a new breed of marketing and distribution companies that use technology to connect brands with villages, use them too.
Business Today recently spoke to Madan Padaki, Co-founder of rural e-commerce firm RubanBridge, a company that treats the kirana owner as an "entrepreneur". Here's what kiranas do for the company:
1. The kirana partner registers villagers and shows him products and deals on the RubanBridge app. He also generates leads and arranges test drives for local auto dealers. He earns for all of these 'tasks'. A test drive registration for a local automotive dealer is a task. Village on-boarding is another task. He also earns when he generates an enquiry or when there is a transaction.
2. The 'entrepreneurs' are locals and operate on trust. They specifically tell the company "Don't make us lose face". If there is a commitment to a product, it must be delivered on time. This is making rural e-commerce companies streamline their processes, as well as catalogue management.
3. The kiranas, particularly those affiliated to RubanBridge, don't push products. The company sees itself as a consumer experience firm rather than a marketing company. A marketing company has targets. Rural e-commerce works on 'pull' - show the products or the deals whenever possible and wait for the customer to be enticed. Kirana owners don't have product targets. But they do have a target to meet customers, generate enquiries, and fulfil enquiries when generated. The earning potential of Kirana owners, today, are far more than what it was even three years back.