Linking up small retailer shops left out by e-commerce

Linking up small retailer shops left out by e-commerce

BENGALURU, DHNS: Who says roadside Kirana shops are out of vogue in the e-commerce era?

Disrupting the retail ecosystem, a Bengaluru-based startup has launched 'Digital Offline' to connect hundreds of small shops seamlessly with suppliers using technology. In the process, an e-commerce fixation has been finally breached: English.

Simply put, the startup, ShopX, employs a multi-lingual mobile app that allows small shop owners to buy goods from big brands and offer services to customers. Local pickup and delivery are part of this system. Besides Kannada and English, the app has its interface accessible through Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati.

An estimated 6,000 retailers in Bengaluru and Karnataka are now part of this network. Among them are small 8x12 shops in Madiwala, Marathahalli, Chandapura, Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Gauribidanur and other places.

A majority of these small-timers are not directly served by the big brands. "Only 6%-8% of these retailers are served by the brands. For instance, those on the city's outskirts have to come all the way to SP Road and other wholesale areas to buy. They will need to shut shop that day. The app-based B2B platform fills this gap," explains the startup's co-founder, Amit Sharma.

But the system goes beyond buying and selling. It offers the small retailer an opportunity to earn additional income by offering their customers services such as mobile phone and DTH recharge, electricity bill payment, and bus and flight ticket bookings.

The e-commerce revolution had largely missed the country's estimated 1.2 crore small retailers spread across the tier-2 and 3 towns. It is this market that ShopX and a few other players are tapping into.

This market currently faces issues such as last-mile deliveries, remoteness of the areas, lack of formalised credit, real estate and logistics costs and awareness.

Small retailers account for almost 90% of the Indian retail market, with malls, hyperlocals and e-commerce portals making up the rest. Launched in May 2015, ShopX has so far enlisted 49,000 retailers across 230 towns in 10 states.

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