India has more than 12 million Kirana stores, forming nearly 90 per cent of its total trade. In contrast, the overall contribution of supermarkets and organised grocery stores remains a meagre 10 per cent. However, the emergence of e-commerce solutions and multinational online retail players, who offer various easy payment and delivery options, the next-door grocery stores have been on constant fear of running out business. “We have been pleasantly surprised with the resiliency with which Kirana store owners have stood up to the challenges over the years – with a smile! Just when the naysayers have sounded death knell for them – be it the onslaught of big-box players/big supermarkets more than a decade back, be it the aggressive marketing play by e-commerce players in the grocery sector in the past few years or be it the current COVID-19 situation; they have constantly adapted to the changes, re-invented themselves with new practices and have come out from these situations stronger,” says Prem Kumar, Founder & CEO, Snapbizz.
In 2020, when an entire nation’s movement was limited due to the spread of coronavirus, a population of 1.3 billion depended on Kirana stores for their essentials – food, beverages, personal and household care products. Prem Kumar adds, “We are now seeing the crucial role that Kirana stores have been playing in the Indian economy and servicing the needs of 1.3 Billion people. This was something which was understated over the years, but they are now finally being given the credit where it’s due.” Prem Kumar is an industry veteran with over 30+ years of experience in Retail, FMCG, Telecom, and Technology across developed markets like the US and Europe and emerging markets like India, Eastern Europe, China and Africa. In India, he has worked the length and breadth of the country in the FMCG industry and has held leadership roles in companies like Lakme Lever, Benckiser, and SC Johnson.
The Birth of a Game-Changing Idea
“In the early 2000s, while working in Eastern Europe, I had noticed the challenges that the FMCG retail there faced viz. the lack of integrated ecosystem and data. This drove me to build a company – CisLink to overcome these challenges,” shares Prem Kumar. CisLink, even today, continues to remain a market space in the space in Russia and Eastern Europe. However, the journey of SnapBizz started off with Qualcomm doing a pilot in India to take wireless technology into fragmented retail. “Given the success of the pilot, they did a global search for an entrepreneur who had the experience of building a company in the same space. Having understood my work with CisLink, they reached out to me. And that’s how SnapBizz was born with Qualcomm being our first investor,” recounts Prem Kumar.
Headquartered in Bengaluru, SnapBizz provides new-age solutions to convert the neighbourhood Kirana stores into smart stores with a host of features to enable the store owner to leverage its current strengths to gain a competitive edge and increase store profitability. “The Kirana stores have an underlying competitive edge by their proximity, familiarity, personal connection with consumers, freshly stocked products and providing monthly credit to the consumers. But where they lack is on shopper experience and its inability to match offers like e-commerce and big-box players. Besides, they are not connected with the players within the FMCG ecosystem. They need a helping hand, particularly in the area of technology adoption for their business,” explains Prem Kumar.
Providing technology solutions, SnapBizz positions its products for Kirana stores as a ‘money-making machine.’ The solution transforms the Kirana stores into a smart store. The key features to the retailers include an easy-to-use solution to manage and optimise store operations, take the store online with SnapOrder app, create virtual merchandising space with SnapVision and cloud-connect them to all the stakeholders of the ecosystem through SnapConnect and enabling them to get promotions/discounts from brands and suppliers. SnapBizz has achieved excellence in the product-market fit by customising its solutions depending on the type of Kirana stores and the size of its business. The company also helps Kirana stored to overcome key challenges such as management of peak hour traffic, billing both bar-coded and non-bar coded products and making it simple even for a store boy to learn and use quickly and independently.
“The most enriching part of my journey was the social impact that a simple technology solution can have on the store employees’ lives. A few years back, a boy in a Kirana store in Pune thanked me as he got Rs. 1200 increment in salary from the Kirana store owner, which allowed him to send his sister to an English medium school. The reason for getting this increment was that he could increase the sales of the store by using SnapBizz Solution,” shares Prem Kumar. SnapBizz currently has a network of 10,000+ Kirana stores across 7 major cities in India that collectively do a business (GMV) of $1 Billion/year.
Solution for FMCG stakeholders
Lack of visibility to Kirana store’s business leads to several inefficiencies as the FMCG goods flow from brands to consumers. “The Indian FMCG industry is essentially a disconnected ecosystem with all players working in absolute silos and is also a data-dark space. Besides this, these players have all a common pain-point with respect to traditional retail; consumer and store engagement – lack of last-mile connect with consumer and store, lack of data – totally data dark space and inefficiency in the supply of goods and financial solutions,” pinpoints Prem Kumar. Thanks to SnapBizz Solution, the Smart Kirana store is now cloud-connected real-time to the various stakeholders of the FMCG ecosystem such as brands, wholesalers, distributors, research/advertising agencies, e-commerce players and financial service players. Prem Kumar adds, “We provide all of them with last-mile- connect with consumer and store, never-before data and opportunity to holistically understand the store and to optimise the relationships with them.”
SnapBizz Solution allows FMCG brands to visually and contextually engage consumers, run targeted promotions, overcome supply chain and assortment challenges, and avoid stock-outs. For e-commerce players, the platform offers them an opportunity to leverage the hyper-local assortment, inventory and delivery capabilities of the Kirana store to service their consumers and scale-up operations. For the wholesalers and distributors, the platform enables them to increase their wallet share and get insights on what they are missing out on selling to the stores. For Finserve players, the platform gives them access to reach out, engage the Kirana stores with financial service products, and continually track the store’s financial health.
The Money-Making Machine
Over the past few years, SnapBizz has grown into the preferred technology solution for the Kirana stores across the major cities they were present in. Prem Kumar and his team have been able to earn the trust of the Kirana stores who found SnapBizz’s solutions extremely easy-to-use and were able to fully utilise all the features right from day one. The retailers now view SnapBizz products as a “money-making machine” which enabled them to increase business by 20%. “What really keeps us going is when we see a 70-year-old grandmother of a family-run Kirana store using our solution with ease or a 21-year-old seventh-standard pass store boy taking charge of his boss’s store with total control using our solution. The love we have been getting from our stores has been overwhelming,” shares Prem Kumar.
On the FMCG ecosystem side, SnapBizz has worked with over 100 FMCG brands in the areas of data analytics and consumer engagement. The company has also worked closely with major FMCG B2B players, Banks and fintech players, and research agencies to help them engage with the retailers and add value to both – theirs and the retailers business. Prem Kumar adds, “We are also creating a social impact by reversing the marginalisation of the SMEs, digital/financial inclusion of the SMEs and upskilling people at the bottom of the pyramid. We have been working closely with various partners to drive adoption of healthy food products among slum dwellers, nationwide hygiene practices in Kirana stores and women to play a bigger role in Kirana/FMCG business.”
Having worked very closely with small merchants across different countries, Prem Kumar is extremely passionate about helping them to be more successful and profitable. He has been the Kirana stores’ voice to represent their best interest across national and international platforms. In fact, Prem Kumar has been celebrating the Kirana stores during the COVID times as the unsung heroes who are at the forefront of serving the country’s large population. “We aim to build a network of 50,000 Class A stores and 2,00,000 Class B/C stores across 42 cities in the next couple of years and become a $ 21 billion platform. We plan to work closely with over 200 brands, a large number of distributors/wholesalers and major e-commerce and financial services players,” concludes Prem Kumar.