Amazon, Flipkart woo 'kiranas' for upcoming festive season sales

Topics Amazon | Flipkart | Kirana stores

E-commerce is booming and is expected to grow at 40 per cent with a GMV (gross merchandise value) of $38 billion this year, according to research firm RedSeer Consulting
Tucked away in a lane in Ghilaguri, a small village a few miles from the nearest city centre of Sivasagar district in Assam, is the kirana (neighbourhood) store of 28-year-old Moinuddin Ahmed. He earns Rs 10,000-15,000 per month from it. But now there is additional income, since he joined Flipkart’s kirana programme for delivery of products.

“The programme has improved my financials,” says Ahmed. “The store earnings did not leave enough in our hands after deducting monthly expenses.”

Across the country in Bengaluru suburbs, Raju Lakshmana, who operates Sri Sai Vinayaka Furniture shop, has joined Amazon’s “Local Shops” programme. He is now able to sell products beyond his locality to other parts of the city. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the rise of work-from-home, Lakshmana is witnessing huge demand for products such as office chairs and tables online and so has added more people to his team.

Ahmed and Lakshmana are among thousands of kirana and local store owners across the country that e-commerce giants Flipkart and Amazon are wooing for the upcoming festive season sales. Especially as the pandemic has accelerated the shift to e-commerce. E-commerce is booming and is expected to grow at 40 per cent with a GMV (gross merchandise value) of $38 billion this year, according to research firm RedSeer Consulting.

These kiranas and local stores will play a crucial role to sell and safely deliver shipments to millions of customers during these sales. They are selling and delivering everything from daily essentials to large appliances as well as gifts and fresh flowers.

In preparation of its Big Billion Days (BBD) this month, Walmart-owned Flipkart has significantly expanded its kirana onboarding programme to make deliveries to customers in more than 850 cities.

With more than 50,000 kiranas onboarded, Flipkart aims to provide a fast and personalised e-commerce experience to millions of consumers. Besides additional income, it is also creating opportunities for digital upskilling.

“After the pandemic (outbreak), e-commerce grew extremely fast and the adoption (rate) for kiranas to be involved in this particular platform also increased,” says Amitesh Jha, senior vice-president, Ekart and Marketplace, Flipkart. “It is not only a metro or urban phenomenon, we have (this programme) in multiple smaller towns across India.”

Sanat Kumar Mahala, who runs a stationery store in Cuttack in Odisha, has been able to save for his son’s education and buy insurance for his family since he joined the programme.

In Pune, Flipkart’s programme is helping Vaishnavi Kumari, 20, save for her higher education while making deliveries as one of the youngest kirana partners. She has grasped the nuances of customer management, how to follow local laws and use of technology for handling shipments.

Ahead of the festive season, over 100,000 Amazon-enabled local shops, kirana and neighbourhood stores from across India are gearing up to serve customers. More than 20,000 offline retailers and kiranas from “Local Shops on Amazon” programme will be participating in their first “Great Indian Festival” sale event this month.

“Our ambition for this programme is very big. Whether it is the (new) customer behaviour or seller willingness, we are at an inflection point where more customers are shopping online, and want to see their favourite local stores,” says Manish Tiwary, vice president, Amazon India. “We have accelerated the programme given the shift in consumer and seller behaviour.”

Local Shops on Amazon was launched in April this year to help bring offline retailers, kiranas and local shops online. The programme has scaled rapidly in just five months, with more than 40 per cent of the sellers coming from outside the top 10 cities. Today, thousands of offline retailers are part of the programme.

Among them is Balakrishna P of Sadhana Water Solutions, who sells products such as water purifiers, solar water heaters, UPS and batteries in Bengaluru. His business was primarily offline. When the lockdown affected it, he made an e-commerce debut with Amazon. “With people working at home, the demand for inverters and UPS has gone up,” says Balakrishna. “Our e-commerce channel is contributing significantly to our overall sales.”

In Ahmedabad, Disha Chittlangia runs a pooja products and home decor store. Amazon’s programme has helped her to reach customers in other parts of the city and bring in a new revenue stream. Chittlangia says, “We are stocking up our inventories for the festive season.”

These kirana programmes have also become a mode of employment, with local retailers hiring people to meet the growing demand for deliveries. Babu Pal from a small hamlet in Guwahati runs a tea and provision store. Using Flipkart’s programme, he has employed people to make deliveries. This way he is also able to develop a relationship with customers and advertise his own store.

In Bengaluru, Raghavendra Chitta, a wholesale cement trader, operates Sri Srinivas Stores. He got himself inducted into Flipkart’s kirana programme to help his workers. The programme has enabled his staff to use their spare time for creating additional income and support their families. Flipkart has also conducted virtual training for upskilling, including customer service, use of digital payments as well as sanitisation to safeguard the customers.

Amazon has also strengthened its flagship “I Have Space” (IHS) delivery programme. It now comprises more than 28,000 neighbourhood and kirana stores in close to 350 cities. Here Amazon India partners with local store owners to deliver products to customers within a 2-4 km radius of their store, allowing them to supplement their regular income and draw more people to their stores.

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