NEW DELHI: On the night of March 24, when the nation-wide lockdown kicked in, the queues outside the neighbour kirana stores appeared never ending. They brought home the realisation that trusty e-commerce websites may find it difficult to deliver, but that the ‘sabzi wallah’ and the general stores next door would still be the ones to bank on.
With the lockdown limiting the number of walk-ins, though, the challenge was how the largely offline network of stores would transition online, overnight to keep up sales and meet the demand. Along came e-commerce platforms like Instamojo, Coutloot and Shopmatic, who specialise in facilitating online synergies for local kirana shops, pharmacies, vegetable vendors and even individual businesses, helping them list out inventories, facilitating bargains, and in some cases, even tying up logistics.
Mumbai-based CoutLoot, for instance, an offline-to-online enabler, introduced an “essentials” service category on its platform allowing offline sellers to deliver essential goods sold through CoutLoot. With over 50,000 vendors including grocery shops, medical stores, and vegetable vendors listed under its essential services category, the platform allows consumers within in a 3 km radius to place orders for essential good and gives them the option of picking up the goods themselves, or having them home delivered. On the supply side, CoutLoot has tied up with logistics partners and vendors can choose to deliver themselves or sign up to avail of the services offered by logistics partners.
CoutLoot’s co-founder, Jasmeet Thind, said, “About 40% vendors who were purely offline are now making the switch, understanding the need to make the transition. We’ve done some handholding and even allowed consumers to chat directly with sellers and bargain for the product they want. The aim is to cause minimum disruption to the supply chain model.”
Singapore based firm, Shopmatic, with a wide network of online stores in India has also seen a surge in signups since it launched the platform in April 2019. Shopmatic’s chief marketing officer Shehnaz Bapooji says the platform allows offline vendors, homepreneurs, and solopreneurs seeking to sell goods and services to create web stores on the Shopmatic platform in under 10 minutes and get their businesses online. “From bakeries to organic food and hygiene products, vendors can sign up for as little as Rs 50 per month and a 3% commission when they sell a product or service,” Bapooji said.
The e-commerce model has been on an uptick for some decades now. But social media analytics company TalkWalker says the coronavirus pandemic has triggered a sharper rise in this trend, making stay-at-home orders the new norm across the globe, and sending an array of brick-and-mortar players online to attempt to adapt to the situation and bridge their revenue gap.
That is what Bengaluru-based Instamojo is also helping offline merchants do. Instamojo co-founder, Akash Gehani says the platform’s premise is to get more people to come online, because there’s huge scope for growth in the Indian market.
“From cafes, to hospitality joints, online classes, retail merchants, and organic products, we are seeing a spike in demand to integrate offline with online.” Gehani says the challenge with retail providers, though, is that they prefer cash collections. With a pandemic forcing them to change some old habits, and with the advent of online payment modes like Paytm and UPI, vendors are now looking to buck that trend too.