Akshat Saxena, Co-Founder, ePayLater

An engineer by qualification from DA-IICT Gandhinagar, Akshat Saxena is a management specialist in Marketing and Information Systems with an MBA degree from the Management Development Institute, Gurgaon (MDI). He co-founded ePayLater – India’s first of its kind “Buy now Pay later” checkout service in December 2015. Within a short span of 3 years, ePayLater has been able to establish the concept in Indian market and has also diversified the product portfolio to address a wide array of customer use cases, powered by short term credit. ePayLater today is a strategic partner to the biggest names in the world and is accredited with pioneering innovations. He was awarded the Business world Achiever of the Year award (Top 40 under 40) in Oct 2016 by Business world. He was chosen as one of the top 40 entrepreneurs in India under the age of 40 in the country.

What is an idea? An idea is a thought that has the potential of transforming lives. It could be a social initiative, an exemplary invention, or a purely commercial one. However, it is an innovation’s exceptional and unhindered applicability at the time of distress that brings its brilliance to the fore. Driven by technology, such ideas in education, insurance, health, and supply chain management are touching lives and reaching people, globally.

India has over 12 million independent Kirana stores- small to medium size grocery stores that provide essential commodities to its customers. During COVID-19, the government-mandated nationwide lockdown directed businesses to either implement remote working or suspend their functions temporarily. Viewing the vitality of some services, retailers and behemoths dealing in essential goods and services such as grocers were exempted from the mandate.

Consequently, the lockdown called for a dire need of essential commodities at all places. Since a large portion of the supply chain in India remains unorganised, the stress came down upon Kirana stores who could not see ample footfall despite great demand. Social distancing and the risk of contracting contagion kept the customers away. But technology came as a saviour, helping Kirana stores transform themselves into new-age retailers.

Fintech, Kirana Bonhomie

Since their advent, technology-driven financial Startups not only eased the way payments were made but their collaborations with different business sectors simplified logistics and inventories for retailers as well as individuals. The cutting-edge technology-driven apps also enable retailers to get insights into how their business is performing. Let’s look at how FinTech technologies are helping Kiranas amidst the coronavirus scare.

Groceries Accessible from The Safe Confines of Home

Tech-based collaborations have enabled digitalisation of Kirana stores. This has helped Kiranas to reach out to the customers online, take orders and payments, and procure stock from the distributors. The sale of commodities is not restricted to physical footfalls anymore. The digital interface is ensuring business continuity amidst the crisis.

Faster Checkouts and Automated Inventory Refill

FinTechs have revolutionised how transactions are made. Digital payments have eliminated the need for hard cash and long queues at store counters. This reduces the time spent during transactions which can be utilised for other productive purposes and business development. E-wallets and golden features such as ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ have empowered consumers to make instant and cashless digital transactions.

Many FinTechs not only aid in digital payments but also offer digital credit to Kirana stores to help with faster inventory churns, ensure business continuity and sufficient supply of commodities to dispense at all ends. Moreover, they offer the facilities of automated inventory and catalogue management lifting the load off the retailers to maintain records manually.

Insufficient money cannot restrict the functioning of Kirana stores now. In the wake of the current scenario, faster checkout, and automated stocking remove the risk of contracting contagion.

Ensuring Last-Mile Logistics for Kiranas

Collaborations amongst different businesses are helping with contactless delivery, imperative in view of social distancing norms. The concept of online ordering portal has empowered neighbourhood Kirana stores with last-mile logistics. Big retailers, food delivery, restaurant aggregators, and e-commerce platforms are sourcing products from Kiranas and/or other retail chains to facilitate home-delivery of essential goods at remote locations.

Big distributors too leverage technological solutions to directly receive orders from the retailers, manage inventories, accept online payments; thereby facilitating the supply chain irrespective of the size or scale of the retailer.

Detect Other Issues to Streamline Supply Chain

A major problem that the Kirana stores faced in the past were that of streamlining demand and supply. Now there are a number of Startups who have streamlined the supply chain. Furthermore, such technology-based solutions can also keep a digital and real-time record of supplies and demands. This can help retailers, wholesale, and even concerned government bodies detect issues such as hoarding amongst customers.

Technology is helping Kirana stores to survive tough times. The AI & ML enabled platforms are ensuring seamless demand-supply flow throughout the country. The biggest challenge, of course, still remains internet connectivity, with rural India still lagging and, therefore, not all tech solutions can be introduced as seamlessly as in cities and small towns. Things have, however, started changing and the neighbourhood kirana is gradually transforming and adapting, especially in crucial times like these.

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