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Kirana Stores: The new heroes of Indian economy during COVID-19

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Kirana stores have had many makeovers and growth variations in the last couple of years. With the sudden emergence of e-commerce solutions and multinational online retail players, who offer various easy pay and delivery options, the next-door grocery stores have been put to various tests and have had to face immense competition and the fear of being run out of business. But in reality, India has more than 6.65 million Kirana stores across the country according to Nielsen. Unlike the West, general trade stores in India form nearly 90 percent of the country’s total trade. The overall contribution of supermarkets and organized grocery stores remains a meagre 10 percent. Although these numbers are slowly changing, in recent times belief in the Kirana stores has been reinforced due to the global pandemic.
Kiranas Emerge As Saviors During COVID-19
With India being under lockdown for the past two months, the entire nation of 1.3 billion is today largely relying on Kirana stores for their essentials – food, beverages, personal and household care products. A new normal can be seen emerging in terms of unexpected changes in consumer behavior trends and how a new-found humble relationship has developed between the local Kirana store and the customers who live in the vicinity. As a result, these customers now see them as the biggest support system during this unprecedented crisis.
But the lockdown has also completely changed the way Kirana stores function. The owners and employees on their part have been working round the clock while maintaining the new social distancing and hygiene maintenance norms. They are constantly re-inventing themselves as the weeks go by to solve various demandrelated and supply-related challenges that have emerged. In spite of increased demand and constraints in timely supplies, the Kirana store owners have not resorted to unfair sales practices. From the data collected from retailtech industry players, it is seen that they continue to sell grocery and commodities at the same price (MRP) as before the lockdown.
From the billing data generated by eB2B providers, it has also been noticed that many Kirana stores have been kept open for longer hours than usual even though there has been a supply crunch in some of the FMCGcategories. They are also supporting customers by continuing to offer home delivery services in spite of the lockdown and manpower challenges.
Modernization of Kiranas
While many Kirana stores have won new customers during this lockdown, it is observed that these customers will only continue to shop with those stores if they offer services such as credit, home-delivery, hyper-local apps and hyper-local merchandising even after lockdown. While consumers have been made aware of the services that their stores provide, there still exists a large number of stores that require a technological upgrade to support this growing demand. However, with new technology investments being made in this industry by some of the biggest e-commerce players, this modernization is not too far.
One of the front-runners in this investment is SnapBizz, a major player in the digital retail network and FMCG platform. SnapBizz has been a strong advocator of Kirana stores and have worked closely with them on the digitization front to improve their profitability.
Technology for Kiranas
To organizes the kiranas with technology the brands like Snapbizz, Jumbotails, etc. has been quick to understand the new challenges being faced by Kirana stores due to the lockdown situation. Their solutions have enabled thousands of stores to leverage their strengths and to improve their profitability. More importantly, they have also enabled them to focus on their weak areas during a crisis such as shopping experience at store, offers/ discounts/promotions, and supply of fresh products and to convert them into areas of strengths.
The rise of the underdog in the form of the neighborhood ‘Kirana Store’ and the profusion of technologies to serve them is all a fallout of the unforeseen and forced shutdown due to the pandemic. The role of the Kirana store in creating a lifeline for the billion plus population was unimaginable a few months ago. They are today seen in line with other essential services like healthcare and law & order. Kudos to the humble neighborhood Kirana store and their indomitable spirit to serve the society.

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