The retail industryaccounts for about 10% of the Indian GDP and is considered to be one of the pillars of the economy. Local kirana stores are deeply entrenched within the Indian culture of community and personalized interactions. They enjoy a reputation for being omnipresent and understanding the pulse of their customers’ needs. The unique relationship these retailers have nurtured, borne out of a sense of familiarity and trust, is the very reason these brick-and-mortar stores are prevalent in a countrythick with competition from e-commerce giants.
The small kirana store in the neighborhood has been as much a very integral part of every Indian as it has been for the Indian economy.With the ‘Digital India’ initiative gaining prominence by the day and the increasing reliance of the younger generation on digital transactions it becomes imperative to empower these kirana stores so they stay relevant amidst the digital wave. The discrepancy between the growth of retail and the retailers’ ability to match up can be a cause of hindrance to the economic development of the country.
In a race for retail market dominance, multiple players are aiming to leverage the Indian retail framework—however the question remains: are we doing enough to empower these retailers?
There is a dire need to equip local retailers with the skills to perform digital transaction.The aim is to create a formidable combination of technology and last mile connectivity. This hyper-localisation needs to be supported with training and upskilling programs for retailers to ensure that they thrive in the consumption market against the disruption provided by online aggregators.
Few essential skills are:
1. Getting technologically savvy – The unorganized retail market indirectly generates livelihoods for 20 crore people, and thus, it is crucial that this segment espouses digital literacy, facilitating ease of transactions. Customers, especially millennials, are most likely to visit stores offering alternative modes of payments in cases of a cash crunch, and in order to avoid losing out this important segment, these retailers need to provide a bouquet of digital services like POS, Aadhaar Banking and Utility Bills among others, and must be well-versed with the banking interface to serve the customers better.
2.Profound product knowledge –A kiranastore has the potential to be the pulsating nerve centre of the locality it is situated in. The key to their continuous progresstherefore,is in their ability to understand the consumer needs of their catchment area. What sets kirana stores apart from a more streamlined supermarket is the customer trust they enjoy and the affinity they have towards their personal needs. However, it is also important to know the products being sold inside out, which will help themto field questions and create solutions for customers.
3. Selling locally relevant goods – It is essential to sell goods that are pertinent to the vicinity of the local touchpoints to differentiate from online grocery aggregators, and thus become indispensable to their customer. It is critical for these retailers to take inventory, identify and fill the gap for consumers by being the flagbearers of the community’s local flavor. It is also pivotal to use this information to cull out (consumption/consumer/market/local) trends and behavioral trends to predict demand.
4. Communication skills –Approachability is an important quality to have in the service industry, asit is essential to deal with irate consumers politely and with patience. They must be trained to hone their soft skills and improve consumer service.They need to be patient while assisting their consumer base. Making the retailers proficient with communication and marketing skills will go a long way in helping them have a more cordial relationship with their daily customersespecially in semi-urban and rural areas.
5. Time management – A retail employee is required to be mentally and physically active since it can be quite a stressful job. Working efficiently, and prioritizing different tasks like taking stock of products and handling a large amount of billing requires a certain vigilance that needs to be imbibed by the local retailer.
6. Sales and marketing – it is important for a retail vendor to serve as a brand ambassador of any product they sell, and take initiative to ensure a product is promoted rightly – it could be as simple as moving a specific product within a customer’s vision to promote brand visibility. The potential of the vendor must be unearthed beyond menial tasks of stocking and transacting, and must be elevated to take a greater onus in the sales of a store. Through modular training, retail employees must be armed with the persuasion skills to move the customer from curiosity to closing successfully.
7. Ability to scale up business –Kirana shops are unlikely to grow beyond a point and invest in shelf space unless they are enabled with the expertise to draw insights based on consumer interactions – for e.g, if a kirana store is offering money transfer, venturing into a new vertical such as insurance will only be possible if he is armed with the infrastructure and adeptness to gauge demand. This ensures that the retail merchants transform the shop beyond a mom-and-pop store and become a one-stop solution for an assortment of needs.
The article has been penned down by Anand Kumar Bajaj, CEO and Founder, PayNearby