Early 2005, the emergence of large format retail stores—the Indian equivalent of Walmart—marked the beginning of a two-month blitz of pink paper articles forecasting the demise of local kiranas or neighborhood stores. Then, a contrarian view, backed by research, denied that kiranas would go out of business. And the media went to town again.
More recently, however, the pendulum has swung back.
The urban middle class with its disposable income and lack of time has begun to break age-old ties with its local kiranas, preferring the convenience that large deep-pocketed retailers can afford. “Kiranawalas are marred by a lack of capital and physical space constraints for expansion. And most of us are not highly-educated or tech-savvy. From where do we gather the resources to match these large business houses?” asks Sreekanth, a grocery store owner in Bangalore’s posh Indiranagar neighborhood.
One company wants to give kiranawalas that muscle. It insists that the strength of kiranas—their deeply-entrenched distribution channels—only needs to be tweaked with IT for them to take on large retailers.