Last few years have seen some very interesting developments that have fueled the growth in B2B e-commerce. It began with Jio disrupting the mobile Internet sector because of which there was a fast adoption of cheap access to mobile phones and Internet. All of a sudden more than 300 million Indian’s were plugged in. Around the same time demonetization happened which shook the age-old cash dependent supply chain industry, which was quickly followed by the launch of GST. It was a clear sign that the industry was moving towards more formalization and the days of unorganized way of doing business were limited. More lately the COVID-19 pandemic has put the adoption rate on steroids. As e-commerce is gaining traction in general, everyone’s expectations are changing to faster gratification, transparent service and a high level of professionalism. And one sector which has recently jumped on the wagon is - kiranas.
“India will continue to be a kirana dominated market. COVID-19 has brought kiranas the attention that their >95 percent share of India’s food and grocery market rightfully merits. The kirana stores have tenaciously stood amidst pandemic and have reinforced their reputation as the most convenient, ubiquitous and reliable source for household grocery needs. In parallel, COVID has also exposed the frailties of traditional wholesale and FMCG distribution as well as those of large format modern trade. Retailers and brands alike, are seeking a reliable, resilient, 21st century alternative for B2B e-commerce,” says Karthik Venkateswaran, Co-founder & CEO, Jumbotail.
B2B E-Commerce Players Empowering Kiranas
Kirana stores are the backbone of food and grocery distribution in India with a 96 percent market share, but running a kirana store was previously a complex and tough task. Retailers faced multiple challenges in running their stores, like shutting stores to visit wholesale markets, lower margins, offline payments, lack of technology, etc. There was a dire need for a digital platform for kiranas where their problems are solved with a 360-degree offering.
“We started MaxWholesale to be an online supplier for kirana stores and now we are providing them with end-to-end solutions like product delivery, higher margins, digital payments, and technology to do more with their resources. We are also looking at adding pharmacies and stationeries on the platform,” shares Samarth Agrawal, Founder & CEO, MaxWholesale.
Similarly, Jumbotail makes it very convenient for kirana stores to procure a wide selection of staples and FMCG products, reliably delivered to storefronts using their in-house supply chain and logistics. Jumbotail also provides access to formal working capital to retailers by connecting lending partners via its Fintech platform. It transforms traditional unorganised kirana stores into J24 branded modern convenience grocery stores, by providing a complete business toolkit and playbook consisting of J24 consumer branding, in-store GoldenEye retail technology and processes, real-time data driven product selection and merchandising insights, integrated supply chain with daily store servicing, Greencard loyalty program and payment solutions which create a differentiated in-store experience for consumers. J24 also provides complete omnichannel experience by taking the store online and also integrating with hyperlocal platforms like Swiggy, Dunzo, and Flipkart.
Warehousing and Logistics Services: An Added Advantage
The B2B e-commerce players offer a full stack solution to the retailers as they aggregate orders as well as operate the warehousing and logistics for fulfillment.
“Jumbotail Logistics provides integrated warehousing, next-day storefront delivery and payments collection solutions through its highly efficient, flexible and resilient in-house supply chain The company uses its own network of fulfillment and distribution centres as well as its last mile delivery fleet - all powered by in-house supply chain technology built specifically for the unique requirements of food and grocery wholesale; to deliver orders placed on the Jumbotail app to the customers’ storefront within an average turnaround time of 24 hours with industry-best fill rates of 95 percent plus. Jumbotail Logistics ships over 10 million units across 100,000+ deliveries every month,” Venkateswaran states.
“At MaxWholesale, we have developed capability to track thousands of SKUs in our warehouses in real time, make them available to kirana stores, do picking, packing and delivery operations all within the platform. Vendors deploy their commercial vehicles on our platform which generates continuous work for them for deliveries to kirana stores,” adds Agrawal.
A key challenge in the foods business is timely access to the market. The lack of strong and reliable logistics network results in a significant percentage of these products getting wasted.
Udaan’s strong supply-chain network spanning 900+ cities, covering over 12,000 pin codes not only ensures timely delivery, but also provides quality and fresh products to buyers at a better price," states Vivek Gupta, Head - Food Business, Udaan in a release.
"Our partner FMCG companies get direct and easy access to over 3 million kirana shops and retailers nationally on the udaan platform resulting in expansion of their target markets," he further adds.
Technology: The Game Changer
Technology plays a big role in operating the day-to-day operations for these B2B e-commerce players. They bet big on Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to find smart solutions.
Explaining the same, Venkateswaran says, “The Jumbotail ecosystem consists of 4 platforms powered by world-class proprietary in-house technology and industry leading processes and insights gained over 4+ years of operations: B2B Online Marketplace, Supply Chain & Logistics, Fintech for SME Lending, and Retail Platform that powers its J24 branded convenience grocery stores. Currently, we are generating billions of data points and building a number of AI driven technologies including AI driven merchandising, computer vision powered product identification system for scanning non-barcoded staples products, delivery promise engines, warehouse pickpack optimisations, logistics planning and optimizations, credit scoring, fraud detection and trust and safety applications.”
“MaxWholesale is a data driven platform based on distributed micro-app architecture. Different teams work on different apps developed dedicatedly for them. All the data generated on the platform - which is a lot of data - is continuously being crunched by our central server, which converts this data into real-time insights and distributes work as action items. This AI enables our ground staff to be much more productive and efficient as compared to a traditional business. AI is also used in automation of inventory management and purchase order generation. We are also working on a few computer vision based ML projects in our warehouse,” Agrawal adds.
How Bright Is The Future?
The ongoing digitalisation, coupled with the pandemic has created a huge opportunity for B2B e-commerce companies, which, until recently, failed to make an impression in the market that is largely unorganised.
Even though back-to-back reforms like demonetization, goods and services tax (GST) and digital governance turned out to be hurdles for a while for the business community, these policies eventually turned out to be a boon for the B2B e-commerce industry. The ease of doing business with digital transactions is bringing a massive opportunity for growth and expansion for businesses. Moreover, considering that there is no FDI restrictions for the B2B sector, it becomes more lucrative for the opportunists, driving the overall e-commerce sector to reach approximately US$ 200 billion by 2027.
“COVID-19 has accentuated the importance of kirana stores to the country as they tenaciously stood amidst pandemic and reinforced their reputation as the most convenient, ubiquitous and reliable source for household grocery needs. The brands, and consumers alike have understood the importance of digitally enabled kirana stores, and post-COVID era, we believe that technology driven modern supply chains and digital transformation of kirana stores are absolute necessities to address the changed realities. The local knowledge, customer intimacy and convenience of the decentralised kirana network, when combined with resilient full stack partners will be a winning combination,” concludes Venkateswaran.