There’s no let-up in the keep-customers-and-win-new-consumers drive of the kirana, the neighbourhood ‘general and provision store’ that has been reinventing itself ever since the advent of big retail threatened its very existence.
First, the kirana went in for renovation and refurbishment of its dingy store. It replaced grimy, dark, old wood cabinets with bright, colourful laminated shelves. Next, just like supermarkets, it started stocking fashionable products like olive oil and mayonnaise.
Labelling, price stickers and neat rows stacked with the goodies followed. Now, with the festive season on, the tiny kirana is daring the big boys with discounts and special offers, publicising them with sharply targeted pamphlets.
“Kiranas are sensing competition from organised players,” said retail expert Prashant Agarwal, joint MD of consultancy Wazir Advisors. Hence, they pass on maximum discounts to customers, retail consultants said.
Nandi Rice Traders and Sri Venkateshwara Provisions in Bangalore are two such kirana stores. Nandi, for instance, is no bigger than 300 sq ft, but it makes itself prominent through its bright yellow pamphlets pasted on the walls. They announce – loudly – a `1,200 special offer of nine items, including 25 kg rice and a kg each of toor dal (yellow split pigeon peas), sunflower oil, sugar, salt and atta (wheat flour).
The pamphlet also advertises other “great offers” for various food ingredients sold at up to 20% discount to maximum retail price or MRP. Nandi’s offers are visible at bus-stops and on streetlight poles. They also target households directly: the pamphlets are slipped into dailies delivered to subscribers every morning, a cost-effective way of generating awareness for the store in an area where Reliance Fresh and Food World’s huge banners scream schemes and freebies.
“Printing pamphlets does not involve much cost,” said Agarwal of Wazir Advisors. Below-the-line (BTL) advertising, he said, is another attempt by kiranas to adapt to the new realities of Indian retail.
M Kumar of Nandi says his offers are valid till stocks last, but new schemes are planned for the Diwali period. Similarly, Sri Venkateshwara’s Keshava Reddy relies on his marketing instincts to stay on his toes, although he has no clue about the brouhaha over FDI in retail. He brainstorms with his “boys” in the shop on ways to not just retain existing customers but also to attract new customers.
“At least for groceries, people would keep visiting my store,” said Reddy. Understandably, it is primarily on groceries that discounts are given, say experts, as unlike large format retailers, kiranas cannot afford schemes on personal care and food and beverages.
Experts say even if just 5% of the kiranas’ targeted customers buy, the publicity drive will have served its purpose. “This (publicity) will happen more as kiranas get increasingly competitive,” said Agarwal.