Kirana stores have been the cornerstone of the Indian retail ecosystem. Tucked away in remote corners but prevalent in every town, village, and beyond, these little stores are critical for the local population to buy everything from shampoo to a quick snack.
While these are crucial to ensure a hassle-free existence in remote areas, the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for these stores to survive. Even before the pandemic, the Kirana store owners had to spend an entire day procuring goods that would be sold in the village. The person traveled to a central hub, often hours away, to buy the required products. This situation worsened post the pandemic-induced lockdowns.
The challenge in logistics often resulted in the Kirana store owner having to stock only a limited set of high-demand products. If a local customer wanted something different, or an unusual brand, a request had to be made and incorporated into the store owner’s next stocking trip. Even though e-commerce apps have penetrated into the rural areas, there is still a general distrust around them, and even those who are comfortable using such products usually use them for non-essential purchases only.
Recent studies indicate that nearly 20 percent of the Kirana stores have used technology to deliver better results and keep pace with the changing times. They are constantly engaging themselves with several B2B platforms for driving the growth in their business, alongside successfully incorporating the tech-driven features.
Technology Solutions for Kirana Stores
Technology-driven digital solutions like those of VilCart have helped Kirana stores overcome the challenges in procuring goods to a large extent. They allow Kirana store owners to place more than one order in a month with no minimum order value. The customers get access to their necessities and premium services at reasonable rates anywhere, anytime. Further, with the help of the application, the Kirana store owners can also track the orders and the estimated delivery date and time in real-time.
Local language applications are also being used to cater to a wider audience where people who do not understand one language can switch to their regional language. This has made the search policy easy and approachable for rural customers where they can understand the information on each product and decipher the meaning thoroughly. Voice-based searches are also made for a wider audience reach catering to a wide range of services offered by the Kirana stores.
Just ordering products is not sufficient. Managing inventories effectively is also crucial for running a Kirana store. Many store owners are unable to track their inventory resulting in expired products, missed sales opportunities, etc. This can be solved through Digital Inventory Management. With the help of such features, the store owners can cater to a wider range of products and services without any increase in the working capital. This not only helps to keep a track of the available goods and services but also increases customer satisfaction. Further, the application can analyze the past sales trends and suggest to Kirana store owners which product they should order in the coming days.
Often Kirana store shoppers tend to pay after 2-3 orders, sometimes even monthly. So, it is essential for the store owners to keep a track of outstanding payments for various family members. With a digital credit system, Kirana store owners can keep a track of credit centrally to know which family owns how much money.
Kirana stores are the backbone of rural retail. However, the logistic challenge often causes them to lose business regularly. Furthermore, inventory management, maintaining credit lines, etc add to the burden of a Kirana store owner. These challenges can be easily overcome through technologies like local language apps etc. to deliver products in remote locations etc. Technology also helps Kirana store owners offer better quality products to their customers, and expand their customer base. To summarize, technology can and is transforming rural Kirana stores in India.