As communities around the world respond to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, we know that this time presents unique challenges for retailers of all sizes and the people they assist. It’s more important than ever to be there for shoppers in the most helpful ways — whether it’s letting your customers know a product is back in stock, providing information on how you’re taking precautions to ensure safety, or sharing an update on how your business and employees are adapting. And this can only be done when you convert your shop to a virtual supermarket. Because of this pandemic and lockdown, customers can’t step out from their homes to buy essential commodities and on the other hand small business retailers and shopkeepers are fighting for their survival as their business has almost collapsed due to poor sales.

So, it is time for small emergin startups in various cities to come up and save the retailers from this huge loss by onboarding.

How startups are helping kirana stores turn e-retailers.

BENGALURU: Shivkumar JR, 34, has converted his 180 square foot kirana store, Sri Gayatri Coffee Works, into a virtual supermarket with the help of a kiosk next to his billing counter. Situated in Kolar Gold Fields, 100 km from Bengaluru, customers queue up to shop on a tablet device that displays a catalogue of products, taking Shivkumar’s help.

Apart from coffee, he now sells gadgets, apparels and cosmetics, with backing from a startup. The tablet in the kiosk is a gateway for both shopkeepers and their customers in small towns and villages to buy products not available locally. Costing between Rs 8,000 and Rs 15,000, the kiosks offer the experience of online shopping to people in rural areas who have poor or limited access to the Internet.

The Reliance vision

Reliance Industries’ retail subsidiary, Reliance Retail, which pegs the number of kirana stores in India at more than seven million, is readying a technologyplatform to bring small retailers into its fold as part of its “New Commerce”plan.

At present, Reliance Retail’s revenue is Rs 1,30,000 crore – making it the largest retailer in India so far. The Indian conglomerate plans to use artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, and cloud computing to help kiranas become competitive.

The Vgroz vision

Startup founders are using their knowledge, experience, and services to support other entrepreneurs in need of assistance. They understand the constraints community businesses face, and what will happen if they lose their local businesses. They will lose that tax base, those jobs, that culture. Public perception needs to change when it comes to supporting small businesses.