All grown-ups would definitely remember the neighbourhood kirana stores in the localities we stayed. The owner used to welcome us with a smile and he knew what brands we were looking for. He would also know the tastes of each of our family members. We could request him to stock what we wanted and they would be there in a day or two. You have forgotten your purse one day or you would want to pay the dues only after you get your salary? No problem. He would keep a record of what we had bought in his pocket diary. But there was this flip side. We never used to get the latest brands. And it was also not that easy to pick up the best from the vegetable or fruit baskets. We had to satisfy with what the vendor would give us.
In every country we used to have plenty of such neighbourhood stores. Now we find hardly a few in the immediate vicinity. As part of an academic program I was in Syracuse in United States, a couple of years back. Though weekend grocery purchases were made from Walmart, the occasional visit to the nearby ‘kirana’ store run by a Palestinian gentleman was the most pleasant one due to the personal attention and warmth received. Small is in fact beautiful anywhere in the world!
(Fruits displayed in the supermarket)
Now, large provision stores and supermarkets owned by multinational brands are located in every small town. Families like to go for shopping in these air conditioned stores. They stock goods of all types, all available brands, and the items are well arranged for us to pick up whatever we want. I am not sure of how much personal attention we would get in such super markets. There is large scale entry of Foreign Direct Investments in the retail sector in many countries. This has thrown fresh challenges for the small retailers who were struggling to survive amidst large supermarkets all around.
Success story of Ramesh
Here is a story of a young man who successfully implemented a new business model to bring back all the customers who shifted the loyalties to supermarkets owned by large corporates.
Mr Ramesh is the proprietor of Adhilakshmi grocery store in a large residential area in Bangalore city. All was good for many years. But establishment of many supermarkets all around changed his fortune. He was very much perturbed by the dwindling number of customers to his shop. Many preferred to go to nearby supermarkets such as Reliance Fresh, Spar Hyper Market (now, Auchan), Total Mall etc. He could hardly maintain his family from the meagre returns he got from the business. Actually the shop was running under loss considering the interest burden on the loans taken for the security deposit given to the room owner.
Ramesh wanted to take the supermarket challenge head on rather than running away from the business like many other small retailers. He studied the situation and explored various strategies to improve his fortune. He kept on saying to his wife: Nothing is impossible. We will definitely get back our customers.
He did the following:
Shifted to a nearby building where he got extra space in front of the shop to keep the goods. The rented space was the same (10x20 sq ft) and he managed to get the rent fixed for thousand rupees less than the amount paid to the previous owner.
He surveyed the large supermarkets in and around the residential colony and studied the products and services offered and the shopping behaviour of the customers. He contacted the distributors who can supply everything that is being sold in the large supermarkets in whatever small quantities he wanted.
He took the help of a friend who is an interior designer to design the shelves and interior of his small shop so that the space can be better utilized and the products are arranged in the most attractive manner. He ensured that the customers have access to all items where they could pick up the best for themselves. He got all the latest brands of items that are in regular demand. He appointed a boy for door delivery if the telephonic order is for more than Rs 100/-. The shop is opened from 6.15 in the morning till 11.15 in the night without a break. His wife manages the shop when he goes for his afternoon break. He even fixed a surveillance camera with a monitor in his small shop. Now most of the residents in the residential colony throng to Ramesh’s shop every day. Customers say that all grocery items, fruits, vegetables, ready to cook items, confectionaries, toiletries, and even essential stationery are available in this shop now. He ordered beautiful clothe bags from a wholesaler and given it free to the customers. No polythene bags are kept in his shop. In a city with acute traffic congestion, spiralling fuel costs, exorbitant parking fee and paucity of time, people started preferring this neighbourhood kirana shop for daily purchases. Visits of many residents to the large supermarket were reduced to once in a month.
Turnover in the shop increased almost three times. In the morning, it has become a practice for many to end their morning walk at this shop to buy fresh vegetables. People patiently wait for the billing. This is a one man shop: Kumar does everything and he is never tired.
There are many lessons one can learn from Ramesh. First, with proper strategy and innovation, any venture, however small it is, can be made successful in spite of various challenges. Second, people ultimately prefer quality at minimum cost, it doesn’t matter who provides it. Third, one should be wise enough to understand the expectations of the customers. For this, one needs to do research and market survey in own humble way and style. Knowledge is in fact free for those who seek sincerely. One need not necessarily hire a professional consultant to understand what is best for him. Fourth, with positive attitude, earnest desire to succeed and a willingness to be industrious, any David can defeat any Goliath. Remember the famous quote: ‘Tough times never last, but tough people do’.
Sibichen K Mathew
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