More weightage for kirana stores

S Karthik, a 42-year-old product manager with an MNC buys pulses, grain and detergent on discount from e-commerce players. However, that hasn’t stopped him from visiting the neighbourhood ‘kirana’ store for certain items. And that is now the case with millions of Indians. In fact, such kirana stores are still business in spite of the proliferation of e-commerce players – the only change being that they sometimes get the lists of groceries and other items through a social messaging channel like Whatsapp. It’s surprising that despite cash-back offers and discounts and even free delivery, online grocers are yet to notch the same popularity as the kirana stores.

The reason, as industry experts point out, is that online channels do not offer any human interaction when it comes to viewing, comparing prices and placing orders – something that most of us love to indulge in. “Kirana stores still offer ease of access. Secondly, they have the ability to sell the most locally relevant assortment of goods for their customer base. You can’t beat a kirana store’s knowledge of what the local community consumes. Looking for a particular Maharashtrian pickle or Punjabi papad? You are more likely to find it in a store round the corner than the swanky supermarket,” says Arvind Mediratta, Managing Director and CEO, Metro Cash and Carry.

Metro Offers Financial Fix
Recently, Metro Cash and Carry India got into a partnership with to offer financial services to its ecosystem of 3 million kirana stores and small and medium enterprises. Through’s platform, these B2B customers will get exclusive access to a range of financial services and products which will aid their operational efficiencies. According to the company, the initiative will give SMEs access to best rates, lower fees, and more cash-backs on credit and debit cards. “We are committed to deliver tremendous value to our SME and kirana value chain. The Indian government has paved the way for Digital India through its numerous initiatives and schemes for SMEs. Our partnership with will provide a large financial marketplace to our 3 million customer base,” says Mediratta.

Walmart on a New Mission
Similarly, Walmart India recently announced UPI activation on its B2B e-commerce platform across its centres in India, which will enable members, especially kirana stores and resellers who shop online at Walmart India’s B2B e-commerce site, to make direct and secured payments online from their bank account without sharing bank details. “Walmart India Ryan Cash and Carry has kirana stores as our key member segment. Hence their success is extremely important for us. We not only ensure that they get a wide assortment of high-quality products at everyday low price) under one roof, but also help them modernize their operations. We are a highly customer-centric business and hence making kirana stores successful and prosperous is one of the main missions for us,” informs Rajneesh Kumar, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Walmart India.

Each of Walmart’s stores offers B2B e-commerce solutions for members either online or through a mobile app and accepts orders over the phone or through its relationship managers. Based on research and feedback from existing members, the ‘best price stores’ of Walmart have introduced several education programs for members with customized modules. According to Walmart India, its ‘Mera Kirana’ initiative has been taken to share best practices with members who are small and medium retailers. It also advises on various aspects of using low-cost modern techniques and processes such as assortment planning, layout and fixtures, displays, backroom, licenses, safe food handling, customer retention and value-added services. Under a pilot ‘Reseller Development Program’, the firm also supports small resellers and kiranas to transform their outlets into modern stores.

An Eye on the Future
Meanwhile, Future Consumer Limited has also inked a partnership with Max Wholesale to bring its products to the neighbourhood grocery stores in Delhi NCR to increase its offline footprint. Future Consumer Limited is India’s first sourcing-to-supermarket food vertical under the Future Group umbrella. Max Wholesale is a new-age distribution company, the fastest growing e-wholesale platform disrupting the segment by using the efficiencies of its proprietary digital platform. As a part of the agreement, Max Wholesale will make its technology platform available to Future Consumer Limited and enable distribution of the staples assortment of Future Consumer’s products to the neighbourhood grocery stores.

The product assortment includes daily use commodity items like pulses, spices, rice, beans and some of the ‘Golden Harvest’ branded products, among many others. “India has the largest network of neighbourhood kirana stores in the world, capturing more than 98% of FMCG and staples sales in India. These small retail stores are like local curators knowing the requirements of their neighbourhood very well. However, they have multiple challenges in their business operations – reliably procuring good quality and value-for-money staples being one of the prominent ones,” says Samarth Agrawal, Co-Founder and CEO, Max Wholesale.

So far, Future Group staples and Golden Harvest products were available to consumers exclusively through multi-brand retail stores such as Big Bazaar. This new partnership will enable the availability of Future Group’s products to the consumers of Delhi at their nearest kirana stores, thereby expanding the brand’s reach. “Future Group’s vision is to provide premium quality of flour, pulses, dry fruits, cereal and spices to each and every household of India. True to this vision we want to make our products reach every kirana store,” states Anand Jaju, Head of Commodities, Future Consumer Limited.

Even though soothsayers predicted the quick death of kirana stores in the face of online grocery and food retailers increasing by the day, the scenario is quite the reverse with big B2B retailers like Walmart or Metro Cash and Carry lending muscle to these small stores to retain their prominence