My early childhood was filled with stories narrated by my grandfather. Tales of valour, magic and genies. Could I have thought that at the click of a button we can buy whatever we want delivered to doorstep? Well, no. To me, eCommerce is like a genie. Only thing, like a gateway to heaven, in this case there is a gateway of payment (not same though in essence) that needs to be crossed. Despite urbanization in India, it is quite clear that the unparalleled penetration of the Kirana stores in the hinterlands, as well as the inner-city neighbourhoods, means that they are not going to disappear completely.
With the evolution of digital and mobile, I keep thinking of the actual local kirana stores. They will need to indulge in the digital space; however, I have a strong feeling that they will not perish. Having spent most of life shuttling to the local kirana store for the daily needs and monthly groceries, sharing seven experiences with the local kirana shopkeepers that I have observed closely over the years and I must say that many of them are pioneers of customer experience! I am sure many of you reading this piece will relate to it.
Building relationship – not only this but the nuances. Their memory power is commendable. They seem to remember almost 90% of their customers, even the ones who visit them may be once a month. Be it any weather, any season, the way they greet is impeccable and simply puts at ease even when there is a queue. Their memory power was sensational, remembering to micro details of the products regular customers would buy eve before asking. That when I started to read more around Return on Relationship.
Trust – Remember these words Customer - ‘Bhiaya, chutta nahin hain.’ (I don’t have change) Shopkeeper - Koi nai, baad mein de dena (No worries, pay me later).Of course, they used to note it down in their ‘khata’, but customers paid up in their next visit. The shopkeeper made it easier for customers. That time there was no cards, no Paytm etc.
Seamless at times – There would be couple of customers who would buy say, Rs. 200 worth of goods daily morning and for that they would almost every day bring a Rs.500 note. One of the shopkeepers I observed (because many times I was there at the same time to buy), used to keep ready change for those couple of customers to save on time.
Networking – well chit-chat we may relate better, however, the underlying objective was network and getting to know the customer. While a helper used to take out the stuff from the shelves, the shopkeeper kept customers engaged in discussions around politics, weather, native town and current affairs. That’s when I got to know many of the shopkeepers keep up with the daily news and stay updated.
Home Delivery – as far as I can go back, I recall the local kirana would deliver to your home the same day, at no extra cost. Only thing, they would not do it for one or two products.
When what you want is not there - I recall situations when a product is not there at the store and the shopkeeper says ‘Abhi nahin hain par aaj shaam tak manga dunga’ ( Not available at present but I can get it for you by today evening)
Customer loyalty – And finally, gradually creating loyalty. Have you noticed that at times there are say, 5 kirana stores adjacent to each other where you will get all your required products at either of the shops, but you will go to that one shop almost every time. There is a reason why that happens. That is engrained in a gradual process of building loyalty. My dad used to go to this one wholesale kirana store all his life, despite a plethora of similar back to back shops!
Kirana shops are source of livelihood for millions of local entrepreneurs with very little skills. There are still challenges that the local kirana stores face, such as lack of technology, limited reach of direct FMCG brands and upcoming brands, products and seamless supply chain. Our endeavour should be to empower them with the latest and simple technology that can make lives easier for as many of them.
Your Local Kirana- Inki Shakhayein nahin hain ( they usually do not have branches)