Small, dim-lit, but fully-stocked: this description typifies each kirana store across the country. From food grains to necessary commodities to random little things, we have all witnessed each of these purchases being made at kirana stores from our childhoods, with the sweet kirana waale uncle offering us toffees instead of change. And even in this digital-led world when e-commerce is growing by leaps and bounds, the significance of these small shops in the neighbourhoods remains the same. So much that, over 12 million local kirana stores scattered across the country form the very backbone of India’s retail trade.
However, in this increasingly digital era, technologically upgrading these stores has become an imperative. As India is undergoing a digital revolution, cash transactions are steadily declining and digital modes of payments are gaining momentum. Therefore, in order to not just survive but to also thrive, kirana stores are trying to embrace technology and modernize their business to cater to rising customer expectations. According to an Assocham and MRRS India research, over 350-400 million retail consumers are projected to be digitally influenced by 2020. Amidst this, digitizing a market that remains unorganized to a whopping extent of 90 per cent is a task that needs to be taken up as immediately and extensively as possible. The physical infrastructure exists and is going to stay, but the digital infrastructure needs to be created and integrated to strengthen the entire retail ecosystem in India.
With Reliance Industries’ recent announcement to digitize the country’s neighbourhood stores doing the rounds these days, let us take a look at some companies that are working tirelessly towards digitally empowering the local retail ecosystem in India:
Reliance Retail is the retail subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited, an India-based multinational conglomerate company. The company recently announced its plans to digitize kirana stores for the transformation of the unorganized retail market, as part of its ‘New Commerce’ move. Reliance Retail will leverage AI, ML, Blockchain, IoT, and cloud computing to empower these local retailers with an end-to-end digital and physical distribution stack. This would enable them to operate in the same way and as efficiently as the larger enterprises and e-commerce players do. By planning on integrating merchants, consumers, and producers through this digital platform, Reliance Retail envisions to further digitization and inclusive growth, and share wealth with those at the bottom of the commerce and retail pyramid in India.
PayNearby is a division of Nearby Technologies, India’s leading hyperlocal fintech network offering digital financial and non-financial services to underbanked and unbanked segments of the population. PayNearby empowers retailers at the first mile to offer digital services such as Aadhaar-based banking services, bank savings, bill payments, card payments, and insurance services etc. to local communities. The company leverages AI, ML, and advanced analytics to create quick, simple, seamless, and efficient micro experiences that enable local retailers, referred to as ‘Digital Pradhans’, to provide these assisted hyperlocal services. Driven by its mission ‘Har Dukaan Digital Pradhan’, Paynearby enables an average monthly business of 3.5 million transactions in the 115 Aspirational Districts of India. Through its concerted efforts, PayNearby is not just digitally empowering kirana stores and local communities but is also playing a highly instrumental role both in driving financial inclusion as well as the transformation of India’s socio-economic landscape.
METRO Cash and Carry India
METRO Cash and Carry is the wholesale division of METRO, a Germany-based leading international specialist in wholesale and food retail. Its Indian subsidiary recently co-created an app for kirana stores with fintech startup ePayLater. The app, called Digital Shop, facilitates instant digitization of all business operations for kirana store owners, without the need for an additional investment on a device. This app basically enables traditional retailers that buy from METRO to order stock, facilitate digital payment options, manage inventory, and track their sales, etc. It also allows these local retailers to facilitate customized offers for customers in their area ordering on the app, giving instant credit for their purchases as well. At the same time, the app gives these retailers access to interest-free business credit within a few clicks. In this manner, Digital Shop strives to transform kirana stores across the country with a more affordable and sustainable digital solution for business growth and profitability.
Shopmatic is a Singapore-based technology firm that provides e-commerce solutions to small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Launched in 2014 with an objective to empower millions of aspiring entrepreneurs with a digital footprint, the company recently partnered with Singapore-based retail management solutions company Octopus to disrupt the retail market in Asia-Pacific with a suite of services to address the gaps that exist for offline businesses in going online. The synergy is helping local retailers implement an efficient omnichannel retail management system post establishing their business online. Equipped with a holistic online and offline ecosystem, these local retail stores are now able to manage their customers, reduce operational costs, synchronize inventory, onboard new customers, and offer loyalty points, etc. Such facilities, supplemented by real-time visibility of sales and staff performance, are enabling retailers to enhance their efficiency and scale up their retail business further. Through such a value proposition, Shopmatic is facilitating an efficient omnichannel ecosystem for kirana stores across the country, thus digitally empowering them.