Upskilling of Kiranas is indispensable if India wishes to achieve its trillion-dollar economy dream

Upskilling can assist MSMEs and small retailers become more competitive, grow their businesses, and survive in the rapidly dynamic business environment.

As per a joint report by Accenture and Trust For Retailers and Retail Associates of India (TRRAIN), the transformation of mere 10% of the 12 million kirana stores in India, has the potential to catapult retail consumption by more than 5% and create around 3.2 million new jobs in the market.

The digital transformation of kirana stores, often dubbed as the lifeline of the country, can bring home significant economic benefits, including a marked 1% increase in employment growth. While the transformation is already underway, it is imperative that the process is accelerated, with concerted support from reformative policies, technology and collaborations between key players in the retail ecosystem. The importance of 12 million kiranas in the country cannot be discounted considering the fact that they comprise almost 90% of India’s retail market, while retail account for nearly 10% of the nation’s GDP and contribute 8% to the total workforce.

While the modernisation of kirana stores will boost consumption and create new employment opportunities, it would also necessitate upskilling of the workforce so that they are employment ready in this rapidly evolving business landscape, spurred by technology. The ambit of upskilling includes the owners of Kirana stores as well!

Today, in this technology led world, upskilling is the only way small retailers can keep pace with the new digital and technological breakthroughs that are revolutionising the retail sector as a whole. Skilling, upskilling and reskilling are the only way SMBs can remain relevant by harnessing tools and technologies that can help them to grow and scale their businesses. Many small retailers today refer to YouTube to learn about new SMB apps and how to use them effectively in their business operations.

Kiranas are at the very epicentre of a highly disruptive retail landscape, poised between ecommerce, delivery partners, fintechs and NBFCs. Given such an environment, upskilling is a way small retailers can navigate through and grow their businesses sustainably over the long term. While the lack of affordable access to formal credit continues to remain a challenge in the country, many small retailers are unaware about the myriad of credit receiving opportunities in the space that the country’s fintech sector is dishing out. Financial literacy is another area that needs emphasis.

Training will open doors for the small retailers and kiranas to participate in and leverage various government schemes as well as simplify and address funding and availability concerns, amongst others. Kirana store owners can learn the science of retail and acquire skills in areas such as business process automation, scalability techniques, effective planogramming, digital marketing and communication, ecommerce, and capital raising, which can transform their businesses significantly.

In the recent past, we have seen how some Kiranas managed to adapt to the digital bandwagon especially during the uncertainty laid forth by the pandemic. Today, several tech and fintech start-ups that are trying to serve the huge number of underserved micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), through technology, so as to assist them in their growth journey. Apart from providing technology inputs and digital business solutions, many of these players in the retail ecosystem are investing in upskilling MSME owners, imparting training and knowledge to them so that they can leverage new age business solutions to their advantage. Through these online and offline skilling programmes, these entities are trying to empower small business owners, helping them thrive in the highly competitive market.

Arvind Mediratta
MD and CEO,
METRO Cash & Carry India
Ex. Chairperson FICCI Retail & Internal Trade Committee (2000-2022)

The edtech sector and many start-ups are also actively providing customised business training to small entrepreneurs and MSME workforce, through online courses in cloud solutions, digital marketing, and many other non-conventional skills such as problem solving and multifaceted decision making. Upskilling can solve a lot of problems MSMEs and small retailers face today, while helping them create key differentiators to become more competitive, achieve higher levels of business growth and be resilient in the highly disruptive business environment. The influx of technology is not only creating demand for new-age skillsets but are also equipping small retailers to access and acquire those skill sets by democratising knowledge and best-practices.

Even the Government has recognised the importance of skilling for this segment and has created several policies and initiatives for the same. The trade and ICT policies have been rolled out to encourage small business to adopt digital solutions. The Ministry of MSMEs has established technology centres (TCs), across the country to help MSMEs to gain access to mature technologies. These TCs provides technical consultancy services and offer technical skill development to the young workforce, that ranges from dropouts to graduates and professionals. Further, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has introduced the ONDC program to democratise ecommerce that micro, small and medium businesses can take advantage of, for their own benefit.

If India wants to realise its trillion-dollar economy dream, modernisation of small retailers and MSMEs along with upskilling them is indispensable. It is the only way they can stay abreast with relevant business tools and technology. A strong digital ecosystem needs to be built that can assist MSMEs in adopting technological solutions that will help them manage several operational necessities, be it managing the inventory, the supply chain, category and assortment options, price discovery and meeting customers’ expectations which are changing each day, every day.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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