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'Dukaan tech' start-ups help kirana stores and small traders go online

There has been a spurt in the number of start-ups that are enabling kirana stores and small and medium businesses to online very quickly
Thirty-year-old Suumit Shah got a text from global apparel brand Jockey's Bengaluru outlet that read, "We now start accepting orders on WhatsApp" along with their catalogue of products. At first, he was appalled to see a brand like Jockey selling on WhatsApp. But then he realised that there was an opportunity to build an easy-to-use platform for small and medium businesses and help them go online. Within the next 48 hours, Suumit, along with his team built Dukaan, an Android app that lets anyone create their ‘online store’ within 30 seconds.

The lockdown had disrupted the traditional buying behaviour of customers, with many shifting to e-commerce marketplaces for groceries and other essentials owing to Covid-19 related fears. This severely impacted small and medium businesses (SMBs) such as kirana stores, textile shops and restaurants.

"There are quite a few global players in this space but they involve hosting domains or are not user-friendly. Also, their solutions are not tailor-made for Indian kirana shops," said Shah. "Small businesses were swiftly losing ground to e-commerce giants in terms of online sales during the lockdown in metro cities while non-metros, shopowners were clueless about online enablement." Shah’s app is now being used by 1.7 million businesses, while 15 million products have been listed there.

Global giants like Shopify and Whatsapp Business are also into the e-commerce enablement space. However, Shopify’s model involves hosting the website, while Whatsapp Business is largely used for communication and there is no interface to transact or to place orders.

The process typically involves a business installing the app and entering store information such as name, location and tax details. The store owner then has to create a catalogue of various products and offerings, along with the pictures, prices and description. The store can finally share the link reacted on the social media platform. 

The link redirects the customer to an interface on the browser where he can select various products and check out. After entering his address, the customer gets to the payments page where he has the option of settling the bill through UPI, wallets or cards. The store owner then gets a notification of the order being placed. 

During the past few months, the number of start-ups that are helping kirana stores go online has jumped manifold. Khatabook has launched Mystore, digital cataloguing start-up DotPe has come up with Digital Dukaan and book-keeping app OkCredit has launched OkShop. Similarly, fintech start-up MSwipe offers MeraOnlineStore and social commerce platform Meesho has launched Popshop. The start-up community calls these apps 'dukaan tech' or 'kirana tech'. Most of these apps are free and charge no commissions.

Due to the competition, start-ups are coming up with unique features to onboard new users and retain existing businesses. Dukaan, for instance, has added a Canva software plugin that helps SMBs create posters and share them directly on Whatsapp or Facebook. ‘Digital Dukaan’ by DotPe gives daily cash rewards through scratch cards based on the milestones achieved. Store owners can also create festival offers, special discounts and share new products through the app.

Existing players in this space such as Instamojo-backed Getmeashop and Y-Combinator-funded Bikayi too have garnered much adoption among SMBs.

"The traction has been very encouraging (since the lockdown). Businesses are taking to online in a big way. We are seeing over 1,000 businesses setting this up every week," said Akash Gehani, co-founder and COO, Instamojo, which owns Getmeashop. "Never before have we seen so much interest in building for Indian businesses. The focus had been on consumers or (building) software as a service (SaaS) by global players.  

Bikayi also plans to hit one million merchants by year-end from 85,000 currently. It has 3.5 million visits every day. 

But will behemoths like JioMart or Amazon entering the space in full force crush these start-ups? "The (Dukaan) apps see a small window opening up in the short term," said Satish Meena, senior forecast analyst, Forrester. "The apps may be acquired by Amazon, Flipkart or Jio as they will have a head-start by the time the big players decide to enter. Till then, making a successful business case without charging commissions will be a challenge."

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