Progressive Grocer speaks to Raju Bhai Chheda, who was initiated into grocery trade when he was studying in the seventh standard. “From a small ration shop to a grocery and provisional store, we have come a long way. The entire journey has been very exciting and everyday I have learned something new,” says Chheda whose Chheda Grain and Provision Stores on Rajawadi road in Ghatkopar east, Mumbai, is well-known for the quality of its products and the wide variety of attas and pulses that it offers
How did you come into the grocery business and when did you set up your business?
I entered into the grocery business to support my family. I was aware that the nature and kind of work in the grocery business called for lots of hard work and application. However, I have always worshiped work and the challenges of the trade did not deter me. I was lucky that my wife always stood by me and supported me to establish this business. Initially we had a small ration shop. After years of hard work, we upgraded it to a kirana store, and today we have our grocery and provisional store, which attracts a footfall of over 200 customers daily.
In 2009, my brother who had been my business partner parted ways. Since then, my son Valay has worked hard to take the brand to a position where it stands today. Now, I can proudly say that my store has been serving for over three generations now.
Please share the growth journey of your stores over the years.
Working passionately has been a part and parcel of my life. I started working when I was in the seventh standard and when we had a small shop running. From a small ration shop to a grocery and provisional store, which has a 440 sq. ft. of retail trading area, we have come a long way. The entire journey has been very exciting and everyday I have learned something new.
In 1995, in Ghatkopar, we ventured into the packaging of food grains and food items. We were the trendsetters in this segment in the locality and I consider it as my biggest achievement.
What do you feel are your strong points as a retailer?
I feel the quality of our products and our customer relationship have been our major strengths. At our store, we emphasise a lot on quality and this has been our unique selling point (USP) over the years. All the goods which are sold at our store are checked personally by my son or me. This is done to ensure that the products are delivered and reaches the customers safely. Some hallmark elements of our store are the variety of attas and the quality of pulses that we make available. We also maintain a very healthy relationship with our customers. They are like family to us and we have a deep understanding of their likings and dislikings, which has helped us build our relations and keep them strong.
Are there any interesting concepts or innovations that you have introduced at your stores?
We were the trendsetters in the packaging of foodgrains in 1995 in our Ghatkopar neighbourhood. We have recently tied up with Vodafone M-Pesa (MPAANI) and a coupon wallet app. Taking these steps have been beneficial in terms of increasing the footfall at our stores. We work hard to identify the demands of our young customers. To serve them better, we are innovating our stores and leveraging technology.
What is the extent of your direct sourcing? Are there specific product categories where you feel that direct form of sourcing is a better approach?
I personally feel that in the case of perishable items or frozen foods items direct sourcing is a better option.
What are you doing to encourage smart and young brands at your stores? How liberal are you in trying out new offerings in your stores?
We are always learning from day to day to adapt to the changing consumer needs and shifts in the consumption of food. For instance, we have seen a marked shift in eating patterns – from paranthas to pasta and from pulses, foodgrains to snacks.
Modern consumers have different diet demands. They spend and consume more on items like sauces, dip mixes and ready food products. I find all these changes in consumer behaviour both interesting and exciting. And I try my best to stock all the bestselling brands in different food categories by being in close touch with our vendors and suppliers. To meet the emerging consumer demands, I do not shy from reaching out to new brands and manufacturers, whose products carry the promise of quality, reliability and safety. Th is can be both a challenging and learning process for a retailer.