How technology is changing your neighborhood store

From ordering supplies to managing inventory and getting analytics on customer behaviour, the Kirana store owner suddenly has all kinds of technology tools at his disposal.

 A small, dusty countertop and heaps of consumer goods piled on shelves — was till a few years ago a standard format kirana (corner) store in the cities, where customers would wait for their turn and pay by cash.

Now, of course, the dusty counters are gone, replaced by a newer supermarket layout where shoppers can browse through a far improved product selection, and opt to pay through a variety of means — debit, credit card or any of the Unified Payments Interface-based apps.

This is perhaps the most visible sign of change in the neighborhood grocery store. Behind the scenes though, things are changing more rapidly.

“SMEs are now understanding the value of technology and we’ve worked at getting our product-market fit right over the last few years,” says Sumit Ghorawat, co-founder of ShopKirana, an Indore-based B2B platform connecting brands with retailers.

The past year has been significant with its business starting to scale, he says.

“The market is maturing, and we are very focused on operating in the Tier 2 grocery business,” Ghorawat says. ShopKirana operates in eight cities but intends to ramp that up to 30 cities by August.

There an estimated 12 million mom-and-pop stores in India, ranging from large stores in cities to tiny village shops servicing a few hundred people. A significant number of these stores sell food and groceries, along with other household supply products. Even with the spread of modern trade, it is estimated that over 90% of food and grocery shopping in India still takes place through these stores, which is one reason why everyone from large corporations to startups see this as an opportunity in the making.

The biggest challenge, of course, is internet connectivity, with rural India still lagging and, therefore, not all tech solutions can be introduced as seamlessly as in cities and small towns. Things have, however, started changing in the last two years and most industry watchers believe that over the next five, kirana stores will be a very different beast, as convenient as online ecommerce platforms, but certainly not going to be replaced by them