India’s largest Kirana network to provide 13 million stores across the country with a digital platform where they can access credible information, leading to greater revenues and better business efficiency.
There are nearly 13 million Kirana stores, or mom-and-pop shops, in India and they play a crucial role in the $600-billion grocery retail industry of the country. Yet these players have been sidelined for far too long, with the industry having little understanding of their challenges and true potential.
“Despite all the innovations in the retail sector, Kirana store owners operate in isolation with little access to real-time business and market information, such as pricing, product quality and trends,” says Anshul Gupta, who founded Kirana Club, as an exclusive community of Kiranas, built just for them, earlier this year.
Based on virtual tours of over a million Kirana stores and processing over 10 million images of these stores, Gupta and his team unearthed a major issue plaguing the ecosystem. Kirana owners didn’t have access to basic information, such as the best B2B platforms/Wholesalers/Distributors to source goods from, which of these players offered the best possible margins and what products were popular amongst consumers.
Kirana Club was born out of the pressing need to provide answers to these important questions and empower Kiranas with the right information. “Our goal is to provide these neighbourhood superheroes with a platform where they get neutral and trusted information that leads to more earnings and business efficiency,” says Gupta.
In six months, over five lakh Kiranas have joined Kirana Club. With a razor-sharp focus on building for Kiranas, the Bengaluru-based company aims to get over a million Kiranas on its platform by the end of 2022.
“We are creating a Kirana-first platform,” says the Founder. “Unlike many digital platforms, the core of our existence revolves around the Indian Kirana ecosystem. In fact, with the online boom, Kiranas witnessed a lot of interest among consumer-packaged goods (CPG) companies, B2B ecommerce, fintech companies, D2C brands and tech start-ups. While the boom did help to resolve the logistical inefficiencies, it didn’t truly benefit the Kirana retailer. In many ways, the digital disruption caused more chaos for them,” he reasons.
With Kirana Club, the vision is to build India’s largest community of Kirana stores, wherein members can participate and engage in meaningful discussions every day, thereby bridging the information gap in the ecosystem. The company is clear that it won’t charge any money from Kiranas. “And this is never going to change. Also, we are laser-focused on solving the problem for Kiranas and are not going to dilute it ever by doing it for other small and medium businesses (SMBs),” insists Gupta.
The future plans entail introducing new features, currently being piloted on the digital platform. The company is also keen to start geographic chapters, enabling members to connect with nearby Kiranas and exchange business-related information.
Currently, collaboration efforts are on to bring the Kirana community and brands together under one digital roof. “Only those brands will be allowed on the platform which are vetted by the community. So, community members of Kirana Club will have the ultimate say in this regard,” informs Gupta.
As someone who hails from a family of retail businesses, Gupta was always fascinated by the FMCG industry. “Fortunately, my professional exposure helped me to grow this fascination. In my last role, I built products for big box US retailers and also FMCG companies like P&G in India,” shares the entrepreneur.
Gupta’s entrepreneurial journey started with Retail Pulse, a start-up that created the world’s first AI-tech to detect products on the chaotic Kirana shelves. Within a year of its launch, the startup bagged marquee clients, such as PepsiCo, Unilever, L’Oréal, Dukaan, Udaan, and TVS Credit.
Retail Pulse helped brands to get deep insights into the little-understood Kirana ecosystem in order to help them build and scale their product portfolios. “We helped Pepsico analyse more than 3.5 lakh Kirana stores across India in 2020, giving the global food and beverage giant an insider view,” says Gupta.
The shift from Retail Pulse to Kirana Club was more of an evolution than a transition, asserts Gupta. “The vision today has become 1000 times bigger. Because unless we empower the millions of Kiranas and thousands of local brands and bring them into the mainstream, the Indian retail story will never realise its true potential,” he says.
As key players of India’s grocery retail industry, Kirana stores can fuel the growth story and accelerate India’s journey from a low-income nation to a middle-income one. But it will take a community to bring about the transformation.