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.
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.
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.
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.
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 !!