Chennai

An app to help locate neighbourhood grocery stores

In April 2020, when lockdown forced stores to down shutters temporarily, A Prasad’s in-laws in Chennai did not have an enjoyable time sourcing a brand of diaper and skin cream for the youngest member of the family.

What eCommerce and hypermarkets could not do, a neighbourhood store in Abhiramapuram did for them.

Witnessing such cases, former colleagues of an IT major have come together to start InStock, an application for small businesses that encourages neighbourhood shops to digitise for better reach of their customer base.

Downloading the app from Google PlayStore and setting up an online account is what it takes to get started.

The founders — Saravanan Chandiran, Pavankumar HV and Manickavel Chandiran — note that the app provides an efficient way of locating essential stores in one’s locality and encourage them to compete with eCommerce outlets.

Shoppers shop online and can seek home delivery. They also get to compare prices of various products.

The app has a clutch of similar tech-enabled initiatives launched during the pandemic to compete with.

An app to help locate neighbourhood grocery stores

“Most e-tailers offer delivery at home while InStock allows customers to discover one’s neighbourhood store — whether to pick up or deliver items at the doorstep,” says Prasad, a core team member who is from the FMCG background. The team launched their pilot in Anna Nagar and are slowly expanding to other neighbourhoods.

They say impressing the advantages of going digital upon owners of kirana stores has not been difficult as the pandemic had already forced some of them to adopt technological tools.

“Out of 14 stores, 10 agreed to onboard the first day itself,” says Saravanan. He says one main advantage these stores see is that they do not have to pay each time for finding a customer or pay a commission at all. “We are planning to charge a small subscription fee, which is the cost of having tea a day,” says Prasad.

‘Store special’ is another feature that the team is trying to promote. “From the people who joined the platform, there are some stores that specialise in certain items. A small business that has a coconut farm was offering a discount on coconuts. Similarly, another maligai outlet was selling a type of kadalai mitai,” says Prasad.

Other features include an automated call to the retailer when a shopper places an order. “When we interacted with retailers, we were surprised to learn that some of them wanted an SMS-like notification to go to the customers for a bill made, so this was incorporated,” says Pavankumar, a resident of Valsaravakkam, who lends to the enterprise, his expertise with technology.

Knowing that a good number of the retailers are over 45 years old and had some resistance in using an app initially, the platform has gone in for a big screen size. The app is multi-lingual and currently supports Tamil and English. “There are short videos that train retailers to add a product,” says Saravanan, who designs the various features in the app.

InStock is currently onboarding grocery outlets in Chennai. As per the latest count, more than 1000 grocery outlets have signed up for the platform.

We will soon be adding hardware, stationery, salons and other small businesses in the app, they add.


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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 11:16:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/an-app-to-help-locate-neighbourhood-grocery-stores/article37845294.ece

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