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ITC accelerates efforts to make kirana stores ready for ‘next generation retail’

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Over the years, ITC has strengthened its partnership with the retailer community which spans across 2 million channel partners in the network. In the last 2 decades, ITC Ltd. has forayed into the Foods and other FMCG businesses and retailers across the country have extended invaluable support in reaching its world-class products to consumers and build popular food brands like Aashirvaad, Bingo!, YiPPee!, Sunfeast Biscuits, Candyman, B Natural, Fabelle, ITC Masterchef et al. which are driven by robust market share and consumer franchise.

In line with ITC Ltd.’s credo of ‘Nation First: Sab Saath Badhein’, , the company right at the onset of the pandemic had spearheaded efforts to ensure safety of thousands of neighbourhood kirana and general store retailers, who ensured last-mile availability of essential products to consumers. retailers were provided equipment and assistance to help continue running their establishment whilst adopting hygiene and safety protocols. The pandemic also led to ITC accelerating its R&D towards developing digital tools to make retailers ‘future-ready’ and the multi-dimensional efforts culminated with a first-of-its-kind virtual event. As an initial step to further strengthen the local ecosystem of neighbourhood grocers, ITC Ltd. organised a virtual summit on ‘Digital Enablement for Kirana Outlets’ to educate and upskill retailers on best practices in retail management, usage of digital ecosystem while also providing them digital solutions developed/ curated specially by the company to aid their growth and sustain their businesses in the coming years.

The virtual summit saw an overwhelming participation from one thousand five hundred and four retailers from across the country who achieved a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® title for ‘Most viewers for a retail management live stream on a bespoke platform’ on January 16, 2021. This was part of a larger virtual event ‘Ek Shaam Aapke Naam’.

Over the years, the Company has undertaken a large gamut of activities to boost its retailers business which ranges from assistance in making physical in-store improvements to introducing them to digital solutions that enable better inventory management. The unprecedented year of 2020 presented an opportunity to recalibrate retailer initiatives and further build, support and foster its strong relationship with the community.

ITC Ltd. has already developed digital tools like Virtual DS, Unnati App and Store Locator to support its retailers. The Virtual DS is aimed at reducing losses of incumbent orders due to salesman absenteeism. Unnati App is a specially developed state-of-the-art retailer application that enables the kirana store operator to directly place online orders with ITC Ltd. Likewise, the Store Locator is a WhatsApp chatbot, bringing the Kirana store and consumer together, aiding the kirana store in building its consumer base and bringing convenience to the consumer. Furthermore, ITC Ltd. plans to develop more enhanced digital tools to accelerate digital transformation.

Commenting on the initiative, Hemant Malik, Divisional Chief Executive, Foods, ITC Ltd. said, “In the initial months of Covid-19 pandemic, local kirana stores became the lifeline for consumers by maintaining a near-steady supply of daily items and essential commodities.  We felt it would be befitting to acknowledge the tireless efforts of retailers and thank their families, who played a significant role in helping them serve the country by standing by them all through this period. While the pandemic reinforced the strength of the retailer community, it also made us realise the importance and need of enhancing digitization across the sector. We look forward to further innovating and introducing digital tools, educate the retailers on its applications and executions and extend unwavering support to build a sustainable and growth-led business environment for the retailers of our country.”

Sandeep Sule, Divisional Chief Executive, Trade Marketing and Distribution,  ITC Ltd. said, “India has a vibrant, diverse and a highly competitive retail ecosystem, and a sizeable chunk consists of smaller retailers across the country. However, the evolution of digital landscape within the retail environment needs to gain momentum, when it comes to smaller retail stores. Identifying the need-based gaps, we look forward to developing and introduce digital tools to help them grow and sustain business in this fast evolving world.  The digital summit – Digital Enablement for Kirana Outlets, was a great starting point and we were overwhelmed by the tremendous response that we received for the same. It also reflects the industry’s willingness to adopt newer ways of doing business and we are happy to play the role of a catalyst in the journey of digitization for the retailers of our country.”

The event also saw celebrities like Actress Chitrangada Singh, Singer KK, Sand artist Sarvam Patel, Chef Meghna Kamdar and RJ Abhinav Singh in attendance. The celebrities, in addition to their entertaining performances also provided encouragement to the participants and doubled up as judges for Drawing, Singing, Dancing and Cooking contest, which saw virtual participation from family members of the retailers.

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