India’s expanding retail landscape is changing fast, with global and domestic retail behemoths fighting tooth and nail to woo shoppers. While many consumers opt for big, clean supermarkets over the local stores, most of India’s grocery retail still happens at kiranas which account for 75-78% of the consumer goods market.

Kirana stores have had many transformations in the last couple of years. With the sudden advent of e-commerce solutions and multinational online retail players, who offer numerous easy payment and delivery options, the next-door grocery stores have been put to various tests and have had to face massive competition. However, in recent times, belief in the kirana stores have been strengthened due to the global pandemic.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, these conventional brick and mortar stores have stood tall as a formidable witness to last mile connectivity by meeting Bharat’s everyday needs. Where large e-commerce giants were left incapacitated due to constrained movement, incapable to supply and home deliver goods to people, Indian kiranas emerged as the true corona warriors. During this time, the local kirana stores held the fort, maintained a near-steady supply of daily items, and ensured that people are not devoid of essential commodities. Besides in the wake of restricted bank operations, these kiranas acted as efficient digital touchpoints offering essential financial services.

While many kirana stores have won new customers during this lockdown, there still exists a large number of stores that need a technological upgrade to support this increasing demand. And, aiding these retailers is PayNearby, India’s largest branchless banking and digital payments network. In line with PayNearby’s credo of ‘Zidd Aage Badhne Ki’, we are completely transforming the kiranas and making them future-ready. Backed by technology, PayNearby transforms a kirana outlet into a local mini bank offering a host of financial services to the natives. We have enabled more than 41+ lakh retailers across 17, 600+ PIN codes to have a strong online presence and ensured small and local shops are not left behind in the transforming digital world.

Echoing this sentiment is PayNearby’s store management app – PayNearby NeoDukaan. PayNearby NeoDukaan is a first-of-its-kind holistic store management tool aimed at digitizing the retail stores and accelerating digital adoption at the last mile. With multiple digital payment options, digital ledger for credit management and online wholesale procurement options, PayNearby NeoDukaan looks to create a thriving ecosystem for its retail partners by empowering them digitally, helping them modernize their stores, simplify their lives and bringing them at par with the current times. With this app, we intend to make our retailers future-ready and take them to the level where they can compete with the e-commerce giants and large format superstores. The store management app enables stores to go online with a single click to be able to service customers in their neighbourhood and beyond to avail the digital store at their convenience. With this platform, PayNearby aims to digitally empower the local retailers in India whilst enhancing their efficiency and opportunities to serve their customers better.

Today, it is crucial for stores to have all formats of digital payments. This all-new platform will enable retailers to offer wide-ranging payment options such as UPI QR, Aadhaar Pay, mPOS and SoftPOS to the customers in the local community. Besides being cost-effective and easily implementable, retailers will not lose customers due to limited payment options and will be able to offer digital financial services seamlessly. PayNearby NeoDukaan will help retailers provide a slew of choices to their customers and will help accelerate digital adoption in the country, especially among the underbanked spectrum, reducing the demand for cash and cash-led transactions. Besides, in the wake of COVID, it will enable customers to make safe, contactless payments too. NeoDukaan, thus, aims to democratize digital payments, ensuring the availability of form factor agnostic transactions at the last mile such that digital payments become as seamless as exchanging cash.

In the majority of Tier II, Tier III cities and beyond, most of the daily businesses run on credit. Retailers end up breaking their backs to maintain a physical ledger and spending long hours on reconciliation. While retailers are used to traditional bookkeeping by maintaining bahi-khatas, NeoDukaan will help them manage customer credits more efficiently with ‘Customer Khata’ – a digital ledger. Besides offering enhanced security, Customer Khata will help retailers to go digital, streamline their accounts and reconcile better. With Customer Khata, retailers can record all transactions digitally, set automatic payment reminders for customers – so that they can collect the dues on time, and view customized reports too.

Moreover, many small businesses lack a good supply management. They often end up shelling out exorbitant prices for supplies that are way beyond the wholesale rates, incurring losses. To help with this, PayNearby NeoDukaan will also function as an aggregator platform, whereby retailers can easily access various wholesale procurement alternatives all in one spot. Currently, no other player offers multiple wholesale procurement options on a unified platform. Besides operational efficiency, the app will enable retailers to digitally procure goods timely and at competitive prices.

PayNearby has been educating and upskilling retailers on the usage of the digital ecosystem while also providing them digital solutions curated specially by the company to aid their growth and sustain their businesses in the coming years. PayNearby is digitally empowering local shopkeepers and allowing customers to be privy to a host of financial and digital services. We are facilitating digital payment methods that can boost India’s progression towards becoming a cashless economy. Through continuous training and awareness of products, our retailers are slowly evolving as micro-entrepreneurs who can navigate the financial and digital landscape on their own.

The kirana ecosystem symbolises the entrepreneurship spirit of India. Despite the naysayers, the future of the kirana stores is bright. This prediction is basis India’s extremely high population density, the cultural association of the local kirana with trust and convenience and the impending modernization of the kiranas. And, PayNearby, with its store management app, is doing its bit to make kiranas future-ready.

Anand Kumar Bajaj, Founder, MD & CEO, PayNearby