Brick and Mortar retail is one of the biggest contributors to India's GDP as it comprises nearly 92 percent of total retail trade in the country which is worth $660 billion. However, this sector is under constant threat because consumers are preferring online shopping due to the convenience offered by e-commerce websites.
The biggest challenge faced by mom and pop stores in the country is of discovery. These traditional shops are given amiss by the buyers since they have no online presence and they are not discovered using Google search by an online buyer. This could be termed as the new 'Digital Divide' in retail which is hampering the brick and mortar stores.
However, bright minds in the country are making constant efforts to bridge this digital divide and offer a level playing field to millions such shopkeepers who do not have an online presence.
Today, there are start-ups focusing especially on the brick and mortar retail segment to help them to reach an online buyer with minimal effort. The retailers can immediately get connected with the online buyers without spending even a single paisa on infrastructure and IT resources with the help of these start-ups.
One such start-up is PriceMap, this simple app functions on a simple link-sharing concept, which has brought these mom and pop stores online at a bare-minimal expense. PriceMap enables a shop, which has no website or any kind of online presence, to reach out to an online buyer and advise them about product availability and price in their own vicinity.
PriceMap helps a shopkeeper get footfalls from buyers who would have otherwise opted for shopping online without even checking if the same product could be purchased at an even better price from a nearby shop. With the help of PriceMap, the retailers are now being able to reach out to the online buyers!
Another such start-up is Fynd, which helps the Brick and Mortar stores to digitise unsold store inventory and sell their products online.
The offline retail market is getting renewed investor interest as the online players have been able to capture less than 3 percent of total retail trade even after burning billions of dollars over last ten years.
Understanding the need of the hour and how the 'smartphone revolution' has changed the dynamics of shopping, the retailers are becoming tech savvy and embracing new solutions with open arms.
They recognize the fact that they are more competitive than online stores, most of the time, but the consumer is not aware of this fact and doesn't have the time to visit shop by shop to check the availability of the product of their choice and the best price.
PriceMap and Fynd are just acting the right tool to bridge this divide.
Girish, who handles mobile sales at RK Vision, Khanna Market in New Delhi, says, "Prior to using PriceMap, we had this false notion that we can't compete with online prices on selling mobile phones. Now, the app advises us about the price which a user is getting online and we are able to beat the online stores in 99 percent of the cases."
Another seller Rajat Jagota, owner of Jagota Electronics, Model Town added, "Retailer must become tech-savvy today if they have to survive against Amazon/Flipkart of the world. PriceMap is giving them a chance to feel their presence felt."
Rajkamal, Floor Manager at Electronic Paradise, Lajpat Nagar, who has been using PriceMap for quite some time now, says, "Online sellers are creating a myth that they are always cheap. The consumers should make use of apps like PriceMap to get prices from local markets before making an online purchase. They will know for themselves, which is cheap: Amazon/Flipkart or the shop in the local market."
It is heartening to see that some entrepreneurs are looking for ways to safeguard the interest of mom and pop stores, which very much define the spirit of entrepreneurship in India.
Suresh Kabra, Founder PriceMap, is of the opinion that the Central Government in its upcoming e-commerce policy should have checks and balances in place so that the interest of small independent retailers are safeguarded from VC funded e-tailers who are simply burning money to incentivise users to go online.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)