(Photo: Reuters)
(Photo: Reuters)

Metro Cash and Carry in a hurry to digitise India's kirana stores

  • Launches an app for kirana stores, allowing traditional retailers that buy from Metro to use the app for multiple functions
  • Currently, the retailer is piloting the app across its stores in Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru and intends to scale it further across the country

New Delhi: Local arm of German wholesaler retailer Metro Cash and Carry said it has launched an app for kirana stores, allowing traditional retailers that buy from Metro to use the app to order stock, keep a check on inventory, and facilitate payments, as the retailer hopes to capitalise on the country’s huge kirana ecosystem and wade off competition from the likes of Reliance Retail that recently announced its plans to digitise India’s neighbourhood grocery stores.

Currently, the retailer is piloting the app across its stores in Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru and has seen 8,000 kiranas and small traders use the app so far. The retailer plans to scale the app across all its 27 stores in 17 cities going forward.

The app, Digital Shop, co-created with fin-tech start-up ePayLater will help kirana owners use their existing smart phones to digitize their business. The app will help such shops digitally track their daily and monthly sales, manage their inventory, place orders with Metro, offer digital payment options to customers etc, the company said in a statement. The app will allow these kiranas to let customers in their areas order on the app by creating customized offers, and give instant credit of up to Rs. 25,000 for their purchases. The app will also provide analytics to kirana owners.

Metro Cash and Carry that largely operates as a wholesaler or business-to-business seller for small businesses mainly local neighbourhood grocery stores and hotels and restaurants has been trying to digitise kiranas for some time now. It runs a smart kirana programme that has helped 500 small retailers transition to some form of digitisation. For instance, it started offering them point-of-sale systems to help them track daily sales.

“However, the latest initiative combines new-age technologies, data science and years of exhaustive experience of wholesale retail into a simple-to-use digital offering," the company added.

India’s kiranas or mom and pop stores that sell everything from pulses to soaps, are turning into a battleground for retailers and start-ups as they continue to dominate the country’s retail trade. Some of the world’s largest companies are looking at disrupting traditional retail trade by lending a technological aspect to small shops. The idea is to help these traders use apps or point-of-sale machines to facilitate orders, enable digital payments, reduce their dependence on cash, and help them manage their inventory in a more systematic manner.

India has over 12 million kirana stores that form the backbone of the country’s retail trade.

Metro's move to upgrade these stores comes as Reliance Retail that has gained enormous clout in India’s retail market announced that it aims to digitise kirana stores by providing its Jio mobile point of sales devices to them.

The app is the first such for the German retailer globally, Arvind Mediratta, MD and CEO, METRO Cash & Carry India told Mint.

Going forward, however as the company expands, Mediratta said the chain was reconsidering opening of large format stores in India. Especially as it moves to launch more digital products for kiranas, its need for large stores is likely to go down.

“We are looking at new formats, yes," Mediratta said. "Our experience in Europe is that with online--a lot of people who would come to the stores in the past, now they prefer to shop online, the foot traffic has come down plus with all these apps people are ordering online." There was no need for big stores, he said.

The company was looking at opening more trader-focused stores going forward that stock relevant inventory and are closer to markets where such shops operate, he added.

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