In recent years, a lot of chatter around local Kirana stores and their importance in providing goods to the people conveniently has gained traction. Despite e-commerce and modern trade options, which largely caters to Tier I, II, and to some extent Tier III cities and towns, the large population residing in locations beyond that (mainly rural and remote areas) is dependent on local Kirana stores for FMCG goods. Another means would be to travel to the nearest city for electronic appliances or other relatively bigger purchases.
While talking about e-commerce and things related to the internet, it is important to realize that despite a large number of internet users in the country, the internet penetration level sits at ~40%, as of June 2019 (Source: Statista). The number of women using the internet is much lower than men, with the divide getting starker in rural India. Plus, there is lower internet usage among older adults due to low internet literacy. This means majority of the population is still an untapped market for online retail. Now, the question is – how can we penetrate this market? One possible solution is Assisted e-commerce.
What is Assisted e-commerce?
A typical assisted e-commerce model is like – A customer walks into a brick-and-mortar store, selects a product, places an order with the help of the storekeeper on the mobile application, and makes the payment. The product is delivered to the customer’s doorstep via the shopkeeper depending on the logistical viability. The model can be termed as a combination of traditional and online retail. The assisted e-commerce model tries to expand the reach of online retail to the large population, meaning rural and remote areas where access to the internet is limited or non-existent.
How Bharat Money Store can help?
Bharat Money Store, an extension of Bharat Financial Inclusion Ltd. and IndusInd Bank, provides banking and financial services through the local Kirana stores in rural and remote areas of the country. These services include cash withdrawals & deposits, money transfer, bill payments & recharge services, loans, etc. based on Aadhaar enabled architecture (AePS) using a mobile application and biometric authentication. With a strong network of 15000 merchants, BMS plans to open 3.7 lakh stores by FY23. On the other hand, Bharat Financial Inclusion Ltd. has a wide presence pan India, covering over 1 lakh villages across ~400 districts in 22 states. The e-commerce companies can leverage this established network to offer products to this promising potential market.
Secure, Convenient and Hassle-free
Though e-commerce platforms provide hassle-free and secured service to customers, it is not the same in the case of the rural population. As mentioned earlier, limited, or non-existent internet, lower digital literacy, and lack of trust restricts them from leveraging such service. Additionally, factors such as language barriers and traditional fear of buying goods without the physical touch impact purchasing. Leveraging the network of Bharat Money Store merchants could solve these issues for e-commerce players.
The Bharat Money Store Kirana merchants are known and trusted people as they are already providing banking services to the people in the neighbourhood. Leveraging this, e-commerce players can offer a digital product catalogue integrated to the platform. The merchant will be able to showcase millions of products available on the catalogue to the customer, place an order, and make the payment. This assistance ensures trust and comfort to customers. BMS already provides small value loans to customers to buy products and eliminates the need to travel to nearby cities to purchase high-value goods like refrigerators, TVs, etc. Plus, e-commerce companies get access to the existing significant customer base of BFIL through Bharat Money Store with no customer acquisition cost.
The assisted e-commerce solves several fundamental problems including the primary – maximizing the reach – along with convenience and access to plethora of products offered via e-commerce in rural and remote areas. Thus, tapping the untapped and creating better business ecosystem.