Retail tech is the blue-eyed boy of corporate India and for immensely valuable reasons. We represent a staggeringly robust market opportunity, which is poised to grow enormously and is also being aided by the pandemic imperatives, contactless shopping being the new norm. However, I do feel that the model initiated by NDHGO, an emerging startup, is more sustainable than the behemoth JioMart, size and scale notwithstanding.
The kirana or small retail business is still the lifeline of the 60 million plus retailer community in India, driven equally by cultural values as pecuniary value. It is the hub of the community and a window to the world of survival and indulgence for the largest sections of our population. Thus, the retailer is a pillar of the community, quite like a teacher or a family doctor, and through his conversational wisdom, a lot is learnt and shared. Also fair to say, that each of us enjoys a certain privileged relationship with this character, at least those emanating from inclusive neighbourhoods. Quite interestingly, socio-cultural sensitivity or homologation, to borrow an automotive term, is key to the success of any scalable model in India and we have enough evidence of this across categories, including the food delivery businesses. Which is exactly why many will bet their bucks on a player who works within and not around the system.
The key of the JioMart model is the warehousing and logistics module, which essentially acts as disintermediation, eliminating the traditional distribution networks that have been built lovingly by companies over decades. Which also invariably means a loss of employment, disruption of age-old ties, reduced levels of accountability and a general disruption of eco systems. Equally inherent to this model is a calculated loss of identity, as the entire country gets unified by a homogenous entity, systematically giving up the heterogeneity of our diverse topography. It may certainly make business sense in the short term and an upgrade of technology but in the long run, we will certainly witness a dip in emotive and rational affiliation, as it is a Big Brother model. Â
Now contrast this with the NDHGO model, hand crafted by financial inclusion and disintermediation pioneers, which understands the outcomes while not compromising on the process. Every store gets guided access to a totally free DIY app, which connects it to current and emerging customers, at no cost. Thus the store identity is secure, the connectivity is effortless and customers can renew their valuable relationships taking advantage of intuitive technology. As an add-on designed to bridge the gap with aggregator ecommerce, discounts and bank deals will make the transaction even sweeter. Literally overnight, on their own terms, stores can upgrade to the next level of transaction and do so piggybacking on the existing distribution eco systems, at no cost. Modern mobile networks powered by super powered data plans can accelerate this process even farther.
It is necessary and important for our societal equilibrium to nurture the interests of the small businessman, to provide a platform for growth without terminally damaging autonomy. The JioMart model is analogous to a branded house construct, where a single overwhelming entity converts the entire army of retailers to commoditised foot soldiers, a customer facing delivery outlet at best. It is certainly breaking the norm and increasing efficiencies but at what price is a query that must be placed, especially in these troubled times.
So while JioMart is a disruptive model, NDHGO is an evolutionary construct, which builds on an existing successful eco-system by infusing sustainable momentum. It is a Retail Technology Platform and like its peers, designed to empower and grow, not just mindlessly multiply. Most importantly, it is a culturally sensitive business model, beautifully blending the soul of Bharat with the ambitions of India.
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