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When Kirana shops were written away !

The Lalaji Store

Everyone has a favourite  neighbourhood kirana shop and it has well stood the test of time when we have unexpected guests,  or run out of sugar,  or the ubiquitous “Cold Drink”.


The nineties saw a raging war, from every quarter, on upcoming Malls, as they were foreseen as ‘gobblers’ of the humble kirana store, or the better sounding ‘mom and pop store’.  All  business and management students,  as well as consultants,  were given case studies at that time on Kirana stores,  and most wrote their epitaph.

kirana-shops india


Twenty years later Kirana stores are alive and kicking. With a difference! While Malls are seen by many as  places  for social jaunts and networking, high street shopping  and weekend fine dining or movie watching and food court eating, the Kirana store continues to  cater  to all the essential and grocery needs of every household. The more discerning   Kirana shops continue to give you less than MRP  prices  and better unbranded stuff than the  retail hyper stores,  and reach you stuff home within minutes, if not seconds,  of  receiving your order. Its  also easy to return products  you didn’t like or found defective. Kirana  owners, by and large,  are reasonable and know where their business comes from.  They also have a captive market, the local neighbourhood, ranging usually from an average of 300 to a high of maybe  1000 households.

Hyper Bazaars

In the last two decades, as Malls have come up in almost every big city, they also   have   hyper markets and super markets or departmental grocery stores. These Super markets usually  see  many  changes in location,  as infrastructure costs force them to move or shrink.   Some  hyper stores, along with   FMCG  companies, offer discounts and freebies,  mainly on products that have a shorter remaining  expiry date,  and ‘one plus  one’  packing for out of demand brands/old packing. Hence the more discerning shopper would much rather not  buy extra  if the  usage is not immediate. And I wouldn’t want to stand in a mile long queue on a Sunday and drag bags full  of  groceries to the third floor. A visit to the Mall for your grocery needs has to be planned and cannot happen when you are on an evening walk. Neither can you place your order on the go. So our local Kirana  scores there too.

hyper-bazaars

Click Stores

Enter the next phase,  the Online Shopping; a bug which has bitten and spared almost no one. While first page ‘wrap ads‘  are all one needs to see to know what’s trending , the recent blitzkrieg, by leading online  shopping portals,  on  every Channel  and newspaper in the country,  leaves no one in doubt about its magnitude, and that  its here to stay, at least for now.

Online shopping website on laptop screen with female hands typing

Everyone is excited about the 70% discount, return policies, try and buy, COD options and so on. Most men, who shied away from reaching out to the grocer, are pushing their wives from their decision making positions, to buy online. Working women can spend a few hours at their work place  to browse and know what’s available in stores. The busy couple is able to arrange  a party even while working. And the elderly are not feeling stranded without a car and driver to take them for the hyper market or green   grocery  shopping. A small secret, which everyone knows,  is that many online portals also use local grocery stores to source  goods. Just the outer wrapping needs to be theirs, or the delivery network.

Lalaji  And Sons Store

The lens is back on the Kirana stores and whether they have the wherewithal to fight it out this time round. Indeed the threat is too large to ignore. But the advantages of Kirana stores will stand them in good stead for similar reasons they withstood the Mall culture.

But next generation Kirana Store heirs,  or  the “…. and Sons Store”, do buckle up please! We want to see you  bigger and better! Here are some simple tips to keep you going:

  • Keep your stores clean and pleasant: attract people.
  • Know your competition; sell below MRP, sell more.
  • Know your customer: apart from recognising your customer’s face and voice, use basic technology to help keep track of your customers’ shopping histories so it is easier to take back what they don’t want or help them reorder quickly. The cost won’t be huge and your earnings are not bad.
  • Billing by hand and parchis is passé; Billing machines will make you grow. It takes a few seconds to bill
  • Get those delivery boys a basic uniform and train them in small courtesies.

So while giant online retailers can buy and sell each other, the Kiranas must continue to sell  like never before.

And life …must go on…being better !!


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About Author

Sheelu Puri

an alumnus of MBE Delhi University, South Campus, graduation BA Eco(hons) from Lady Shri Ram College & schooling from Convent of Jesus & Mary, New Delhi. Sheelu Puri started her career as a lecturer in Delhi University colleges , but soon switched to the corporate sector and worked with the Apollo and Patriot groups in the field of marketing, exports and business development and climbed to decision making levels in a short span of time. Less than a decade later Sheelu Puri started her own venture in the field of projects as its business head since 1996 and is currently running Skyline Knowledge Centre at office near Galleria in Gurgaon.

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