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What’s Ahead for the Kirana Store?

It seems as if both Corporate India and the media cannot stop talking about the new COVID-19 heroes – the kirana stores. The kirana store owner is now part of the hallowed group of frontline warriors. And why not? In the worst days of the lockdown, it was the kirana store that ensured a continuous supply of essential goods. When supply chains and distribution networks broke down, retailers picked up supplies themselves. 

Consumers have acknowledged the efficacy of the kirana stores by shifting their shopping behaviours. No longer is it infra digs to stand outside a kirana store and buy the cheaper brand. Attitudes aside, there is a new appreciation of the kirana store and their capacity to enable last-mile connectivity both for consumers and brands.

It’s not surprising that Corporate India and FMCG brands have taken notice of the kirana store’s resilience. Small convenience stores and kiranas make up 90% of India’s retail ecosystem. While in current times it’s a boon, the unorganized sector has its share of complexities and inefficiencies. All experts concur on one approach to dealing with these inefficiencies – digitizing supply chains.

Reliance Industries’ JioMart has been making the biggest splash in this regard with its partnership with Facebook. The partnership will give JioMart access to 400 million WhatsApp users in India. More than tens of millions of these users are owners of small and medium businesses. 

What started as a point of sales (PoS) machines, JioMart is now leveraging the Reliance Industries ecosystem to digitize supply chains for kirana stores. From credit for retailers to offering lower than industry average prices to demand generation to making home deliveries, JioMart promises to bring millions of kirana stores into the digital age.

The Reliance-Facebook partnership poses the biggest threat to Paytm Malls’ ambitions to own the kirana store market in the country. The fintech giant has introduced loyalty programs and technology to enable digital payments for kirana stores.  

E-commerce companies and hyperlocal delivery startups like Amazon, Flipkart and Swiggy want their share of the kirana growth story as well. They are banking on the kirana stores ability to service their communities of consumers to ease last-mile delivery bottlenecks. 

Amazon India was already leveraging the local kiranas to store and deliver its products through the ‘I have space‘ program which was announced in January 2020. Then earlier in May 2020, it launched the ‘Local Shops on Amazon’ program with an investment of ₹10 crore. The program aims to enable kirana store owners to sell and service their customers online. 

Flipkart also has a similar program where it has enlisted service providers along with retailers to store and ship its products within their communities. Swiggy has also onboarded several kirana stores to help with their local deliveries. 

The trend points to digital supply chains that are here to stay. It took a pandemic and a lockdown for the retail ecosystem to take tech adoption seriously.

Bizom has been at the forefront of helping brands address these inefficiencies and connect directly with retailers. Its flagship product is the Retailer App which in better times had helped Bausch & Lomb India and Pepsi to address their distribution woes. The App helps bring the retailers of the brands onto digital platforms, making it easy to order for stocks, improve order fulfilment rates and decrease delivery times. 

In the case of Bausch & Lomb India, which is one of the oldest and largest manufacturers of eye care products and lenses in the world, it was the challenge of a huge inventory. They had over 30,000 SKUs! How could they provide visibility to their retailers and distributors? It was a digital transformation of approximately 7,000 retailers that helped them gain visibility into the market and improve their customer service.

Listen to Sanjay Bhutani – CEO of Bausch & Lomb India SAARC, KY Shankar – Director of Supply Chain and Distribution, and Deepak Goel – Head of Supply Chain talk about the impact of the Bizom Retailer App on the company and all its stakeholders.

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