Emergence of Indian Local Grocers

In a social-distance-minded economy, innumerable sectors are being forced to innovate-grocery shops in particular

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In March, long queues were seen outside supermarkets as anxious shoppers waited to stockpile supplies. Three months on, the queues are still there; now shoppers—two meters apart and with pockets full of hand sanitizers—are lining up for a socially-distanced visit to stores.

Empty grocery shelves, both physical and digital, have become symbolic of how the black swan event like COVID-19 has had far-reaching impacts on communities and supply chains around the globe. Goods that once seemed abundant such as toilet papers, cleaning supplies, water, milk, meat quickly became difficult to find. In the hunt for these essentials, while adhering to stay-at-home directives, people have turned to online shopping, accelerating the adoption rate of grocery delivery services.

The unavailability of grocery delivery windows, the out-of-stock memos on major e-commerce platforms and even the cancellation of certain online orders where supply was miscalculated, were something rarely experienced before this crisis. It’s driven people to stores in droves. This has grocers and e-commerce companies racing to adapt and keep people safe.

Physical retail and the supply chain that powers it are acting as extremely important stabilizing forces in society right now. When the digital and physical shelves are restocked with staple items, most notably in this environment such as toilet paper, it will signal a return to normalcy: a psychological calmer. In a webinar by Entrepreneur India, key players in retail and logistics examine the impact this public health emergency has had on the practice-related aspects and how they can prepare for the future by remodeling new business models now.

Rise of On-demand Grocery Delivery—the Future

Grocery and food retailers are responding to an unprecedented demand that strains the entire ecosystem. Customers from all demographics have shifted to digital, ushering in a new normal for food retail that may become permanent. This has created an environment poised for innovation, with a need to realign supply chains, to target on some specific problem area and not a blanket solution to all problems, redefine what parts of the food workforce are essential, and gain a deeper understanding of how to connect with loyal customers through social media. “COVID-19 has created a condition in which a lot of trials will happen, purely based on availability,” says Karthik Venkateswaran, CEO and co-founder of Jumbotail.

The concept of a supermarket-on-wheels is not entirely new. “Based on the demand that we have received, we are targeting the demographic that loves convenience,” says Vaibhav Domkundwar, CEO and founder of Better Capital.

Yet retail experts wonder how new grocery alternatives like these will perform in an already saturated grocery market. Apps like UberEats, Zomato, Swiggy, Grofers, BigBasket Dunzo and Amazon Prime have made it possible to get groceries shipped straight to your door, while many restaurants have beefed up delivery services during COVID-19.

As consumers continue to stock up on essentials as well as hoard and panic-buy grocers, delivery services, and e-commerce companies are adapting at a rapid pace to meet consumer demand and deal with the unchartered territory of how to keep employees and shoppers safe from the virus while doing so.

As consumers deal with the unexpected fallout of crisis situations like COVID-19, grocers can take on the role of the responsible retailer, working with partners and local governments to provide for hard-hit consumers while building trust within local communities.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to run its course, grocers must also focus on optimizing processes and serving customers now, while planning ahead. While harder to predict, grocers should be prepared to navigate shifts in demand, supplier partnerships, and inventory management as panic buying slows down and consumers begin to return to more regular shopping patterns. “Greed has done its round. Now the fear is driving opportunities for new entrants to think whether I should take from a nearby retailer versus a delivery boy coming from an unknown place,” says Anand Kumar Bajaj, MD and CEO of PayNearby.

“Collaboration is the way forward. We are fighting for a new world order which is driven by technology. We all should join hands to solve problems for retailers or insufficiencies in trade. It can only happen if the collective consensus says yes that we need to solve the problem together. It will create a surplus because India is at an inflection point in the gross domestic product (GDP) when we cross 3000 per capita GDP dollars, the nation’s consumption will start becoming less price conscious in grocery,” mentions Venkateswaran.

Will this crisis have long-term impact on the way people shop, or how grocers do business? The steps grocers take to optimize the supply chain have the potential to reshape how grocers interact and build relationships with customers, employees and partners now, and for years to come.

Seamless customer experiences have been a priority even before the pandemic, and grocers are responding by tailoring their online platforms to meet consumers’ shifting needs. They are reexamining how they list their products online, seeking to support growing digital payment volumes and approaching their in-store operations with the same critical eye. Some are even exploring how flexible delivery hours or automation could support speedier transactions. Grocers and their payment providers must not get complacent, however. They will need to be prepared to craft new innovations and implement technologies for a future in which consumers expect more flexibility in how they shop and pay. “Grocery market is like a Russian winter, you have to respect it,” adds Venkateswaran in light humor.

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