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Guest Times: Will e-grocery sound the death knell for the kirana stores?

Ganapathy Viswanathan, Senior VP, Eureka Mobile Advertising, lists the factors where e-grocery scores over kirana stores, but also adds that it is be too early to totally brush off the neighbourhood stores

Delhi | July 24, 2015

V Ganapathy V Ganapathy

The other day I was walking around my street when I noticed a bunch of boys wearing branded T-shirts and standing on the footpath a few apartments away from my house. All of them had bikes and they were just waiting to get orders or instructions to perform their delivery function.

I spoke to one of the delivery boys, who instantly responded to me by saying that we must download the app to place an order. It seems only when you have the app that you are at times able to avail of the discounts and especially during weekends, when offers are made across categories. And delivery of the goods is done in 90 minutes.

Different online grocery companies work on different working models to ensure that they deliver almost 100 per cent of items ordered by the customer. So let’s look at what the real difference is. Primarily, one looks at cost, convenience, variety of products, quality, delivery and even the payment terms.

  1. Cost:  It always boils down to cost when you buy monthly provisions. But today, the customer is looking beyond cost to ensure that he gets the best quality and brands at ease. The working population, which has very limited time to shop, will spend very little time on ordering grocery by visiting a kirana store. The women in the house will just take the inventory list from the maid and go online and place the order. What she will also ensure is that the delivery of the same is done only when they are at home, and the online shops give the choice of time to do the delivery. While this is also possible with the traditional kirana stores, but they have very fixed times to deliver and few delivery team members to execute the same.

  1. Convenience: While one has the convenience of quickly stepping out to buy some urgent provisions from one’s neighborhood store, the same is not possible online. When you go through online, you need some minimum amount of ordering to be done for them to deliver at home. This is a huge disadvantage when your requirement is specific. And this where the Mom & Pop stores score over e-grocery. But online grocery stores provide more convenience when it comes to factors like preferred time for delivery, which one can instruct while placing the order.

  1. Product Range: The Mom & Pop stores are always on the backfoot when it comes to inventory and maintaining large inventories for a variety of products. But having said that, they manage to stock the maximum range and keep their customers happy. This is where online stores benefit as they have huge warehouses and partnerships with several vendors to bridge their gap. And because of this they are able to offer a variety which today’s customer is looking for from an array of products and brands.

  1. Quality & Delivery: The Mom & Pop stores have become equally quality conscious and are geared up to offer a range of quality in their offerings. The advantage one has here is that one can visit the shop and get the feel of the product. This is one lacuna that online stores are facing and all one gets to see is a visual display of some samples on the website. The look and feel, the emotional conversations with the shopkeeper helps the customer to narrow his decision to buy the right product. Some of the large departmental stores have beefed up their delivery system and logistics solutions, while they may not have the precision and convenience timing, but they are trying to match the online stores.

  1. Promotions & Payment: The big online brands have deep pockets to promote their brands and run cross promotions, which help them in engaging continuously with their audience. This is not possible with the Mom & Pop stores as their business runs on the old trust and relationship and strong word of mouth. It’s like visiting a bank branch or doing online transaction. One certainly gets that personal touch and attention when he visits the store to buy his grocery and the shopkeeper’s personal conversations at times instill confidence in the consumer’s mind. When it comes to payment, one has to pay in cash at the Mom & Pop stores, however, some of them have moved to plastic money and also give some credit if you are a long term customer. But in the case of the online brands, they not only allow you to make payments through card, but also run attractive loyalty programmes to woo the customers and retain them.

The online Vs Kirana debate continues

Both Mom & Pop stores and online stores have their merits and demerits. The urge to move towards online shopping for grocery has motivated many working couples who have limited time to visit a kirana shop. But there is still a large population who still trust their next door kirana shop, but the kids of these shoppers will be tomorrow’s shoppers when it comes to online grocery. There are certain still certain categories like vegetables and fruits, which most of them would like to see and buy, thus when it comes to perishable products people will go to their vegetable and fruit vendor to buy them. The situation in today’s retail space is interestingly poised. The next five years will tell us where this is heading. Maybe by that time, kirana stores will also come up with some innovative plans to remain relevant.

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