Online Grocery Stores: A change for the better for the traditional retailers?

From the local ration shops to the new age convenience hypermarts, the long journey hasn’t been easy. So realize the next generation traditional kirana shop owners who are a part of that transition; bad or good, the story is yet to unfold.

The world is moving ahead. The revolution is obvious. The change is in consumer behavior, needs and plausibility with varied options. He, who was accustomed to wasting entire ‘Sunday’ in grocery shopping is now happy ‘ordering’ in the convenience of his home or while catching a movie or enjoying a ‘special’ meal with his family or friends. Time is costlier than money itself! He, who used to hop shop to shop in search of the best deals and run miles to find whole sale shops so as to cut down on daily expenditures; today is ready to spend that extra penny on convenience. Cashing on this consumer behavior is the concept which sets the stage for change in retailer attitudes. The modern hypermarts and convenience stores are providing easy access to all essentials as well as luxuries under one roof. The marts and suave shops in popular malls invite consumers with their glitz and glamour. The costing; whatever be the claims; is bound to be high. Convenience now has a price and yet the market is big. kirana store

Past five years have seen a definite shift in business from kirana stores to modernized retailers, if that’s what we can call them. The kirana shops are experiencing an inadvertent downfall and the need for change is inevitable and is in gradual expanding process. He, who was satisfied with a small, listless shop in the basement of his confines, now wants to stand against the suave hypermart. He, now has smart salesmen, convenient racking, internet connectivity, wide clientele/database and home delivery. It is like surfing the clouds with feet yet grounded.

Says Rajiv Jindal owner of a kirana shop in NCR, my father started this shop 35 years back from where it came to me. A graduate by qualification, Rajiv is not only catering to 4-5 km of neighborhood localities but also has been able to tie-up with few corporate houses for their grocery needs. Taking out his smartphone, Rajiv shows us an email order from a local resident. I learn every day something new and try to incorporate the same in my business. From the shop I acquired from my father, it was a huge shift in mindset. But, now with improved service levels, merchandise assortment, layout and lighting I have made the local big store, my biggest competitor. This story is not an exception. A silent revolution is taking place in the Indian retail sector, with traditional kirana stores taking to the Internet for providing supplies to retail customers.

Where at one stage, the poor gains from the shop earnings appeared to have a dreary future, today things look bright. The returns are improving and the markets are reversing.

In the last few years, kirana stores in many cities have remodeled their outlets on the lines of retail chains as branded stores spring up in their neighborhoods. They have stocked products relevant to their catchments, learnt how to display them, installed air-conditioning, introduced trolleys, computerized bills and even started accepting credit cards. In-store media options such as AV screens that enable narrowcasting of infomercials or advertisements, targeted at grocery shoppers are being installed at places with high footfalls and advertising is outreaching far avenues.

80 Lac Kirana outlets is a number constantly quoted in various studies as the first consumer choice for shopping across India. They have distinct advantages that are obvious now; convenience, extension of credit, home delivery & leveraging personal relationships. Besides these the eventual consumer costing is much lower, fitting the restraint budgets.

Amidst much hue and cry, the government’s firmness on bringing foreign direct investment in the retail sector has risen up the issue of the move being threat to ‘our indigenous Kirana Stores’. We see such changes in all walks of life. For example, the email has overwhelmed regular postage, the open rickshaws have given way to ‘autos’ and the metro has convenience the previously tiresome bus travel. So are we also in for a transition from kirana stores to hypermarts? This is time for change. The postage department has strengthened registered mail, rickshaws have got hoods and buses now come with air conditioning. Change is good. Change is essential. And as we say, the only thing that is constant is ‘change’. The kiranas must understand and make necessary efforts. Transition is not necessarily blocking the old to support the new. Few wise and timely interventions can bridge the gap. He, who was old and outdated, and ready for extinction, may survive the competition. The ashes have crumbled but the phoenix must arise.

Today the retailers’ store is integrated into the web, on Facebook and even within mobile applications. The ease of home shopping with wide era of options, without the unnecessary hassles of outdoor shopping is inviting. The kirana shops are now growing to provide this. We just need new entrepreneurs to facilitate this ‘change’ and the youth to accept with open minds.

What are your thoughts?

[Guest article by Saurabh srivastava, VP - channel engagement, aaramshop.com]

[Image credit: sankarshan/Flickr.]