In the recently concluded AGM of India’s largest company Reliance Industries Limited, major announcements were made. One of the highlights of this most viewed corporate event was to digitize the local storefronts in India. Launch of Reliance Digital Kirana initiative could lead to re-birth of otherwise disregarded Kirana stores. Let’s look at how Kirana store’s common problems and how mega retail companies plan to solve them.
Problem Areas of Kirana Stores
Local storefronts in India also known as Kirana stores have had a tough time in the recent past. With many e-commerce aggregators and shopping malls, Kirana stores faced a steep fall in revenue. Considering their small shops and not well-planned inventory added to a poor experience, further pushing away retail customers. Manual billing was always a challenge and GST introduction in 2017 added to their vows. The 12 Million plus retail stores were left to their fates.
The Digital Kirana Solution
These Kirana stores needed a solution, which would be centralized and cater to most of their problems. They needed a simple billing and calculation mechanism, which would help close purchase transactions faster with efficiency. Also, along with this purchase transaction, once an item is ordered, inventory be tracked in a way that re-order is hassle-free. Most important of all, their stores should presentable and appeal their visiting customers so that they prefer to spend more money.
Many big tech firms and startups took up this challenge and today we see quite few players aligned to capture this opportunity. Let’s look at some of the mega players who plan to digitize the Kirana stores.
Reliance / Jio Platforms
The concept of Digital Kirana store, came under the spotlight only after Jio declared its plans to foray in this space. Jio has Jio fiber, Jio telephones, and cloud provider in Azure, in the form of raw ingredients. By connecting these ingredients they can provide world-class software infrastructure to these Kirana stores. They also piloted revamps of some Kirana stores in less than 48 hours and results looked promising.
Jio plans to revamp as many as 5 million stores by 2023 through its MPoS (Mobile Point of Sale) device. Jio has the advantage of scale and massive reach. If this plan succeeds, all the money invested by the likes of Facebook, Google, and Intel, will pay hefty dividends. Though Jio has always made a grand entry and has made competition fierce, they are not the sole players in this space
Jeff Bezos has been very bullish on India and has made some huge investments in India. During his visit to India in January 2020, Jeff Bezos made quite a few promises. One of the commitments was to invest $1 Billion in supporting the digital Kirana initiative. Amazon plans to provide software to these physical stores. This software would help them maintain the digital log of inventory and provide ease of shopping. As per company claims, more than 10,000 storefronts have already taken a leap of faith with Amazon. Some of the notable names are Big Bazzar and MedPlus in this list of storefronts. The company is also promoting its ecosystem of Amazon Pay, over plastic cards to process payments. By providing some discounts and not taking cuts from customers, Amazon is making a bet for the long term to dig its root deeper.
Unlike other companies, Amazon also plans to expand its supply chain through this network of Kirana stores. These storefronts can act as the last mile pick up and delivery points to address the delivery issues in challenging areas. In the future, Amazon could ultimately bring its offline to online commerce through its strong reach.
Metro has been in India for quite some time now. Though the German wholesale chain has its presence, it is yet to become a household name. Metro through its Smart Kirana initiatives, plans to make a mark in India of its presence. Under this initiative, Metro redesigns the store and provides a digital billing mechanism. Metro’s focus is to allow Kirana stores to do more with less inventory. Through efficient handling of stock, these small shop owners could drastically reduce the working capital.
Metro has also invested in a fintech startup ePayLater to complete the missing block of payments. With its app called Digital Shop, Kirana stores could digitize their business operations almost instantly. Through this Smart Kirana initiative, Metro wants to expand its customer base of retail shops. These digital storefronts would then become permanent Metro customers, thus enabling Metro to strengthen its foothold in India
The growth story of India relies partially on how India shops. With the entry of big players like Amazon, Reliance, and Metro, a revival is imminent. However, the revival story has the star-cast of some innovation filled startups too. Some of those startups to be mentioned in this article.
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