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Digital bookkeeping changing the face of Mom-and-Pop stores in India

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Mom-and-pop stores are now the focus of the transformational force that seeks to modernise them using technology in a bid to bestow the efficiencies and tactics of modern retail.

Digital bookkeeping changing the face of Mom-and-Pop stores in India
Ramesh Gupta has been running a grocery store in the Sardar Nagar area of Gorakhpur for 16 years. One day, he came to know that small businesses can also purchase inventory from e-commerce portals. This deeply impressed him, and Ramesh started searching for technological solutions to grow his business. Much to his delight, he found that there are applications which can enable him to create his own e-commerce portal besides managing bookkeeping task digitally. Today, Ramesh orders inventory online which saves time and money thus allowing him to focus on business. He has also set-up an online portal to reach a wider audience. This is the new face of Indian retail which is embracing technology to seek convenience and ease of access.
Ramesh is not an isolated case. Trying to keep pace with change, mom and pop stores are embracing technology solutions more than ever before. They are adopting online payments, digital bookkeeping solutions to simplify bookkeeping and point-of-sale machine to hand out digital bills.
Till a few years ago, mom-and-pop stores were disorganised and were marked by dim interiors. These stores were managed by semi-literate owners and staff who preferred the traditional concept of handwritten paper billing and book-keeping which were plagued with a lot of drawbacks. These include risk of losing hand-written invoices, difficultly keeping track of such bills, probability of misreading and alteration of such invoices leading to accounting errors, difficulty in reproducing traditional invoices which can fade overtime etc.
This is now changing with the rapid transformation of retail stores. Mom-and-pop stores are now the focus of the transformational force that seeks to modernise them using technology in a bid to bestow the efficiencies and tactics of modern retail.
The biggest strength of Kirana stores is their business model. Such stores are not only easy to set up due to less investment vis-à-vis a retail store, but they can also offer to roll over credit with a certain degree of ease that the likes of organised retailers simply cannot comprehend.
Startups in the digital bookkeeping segment are fast becoming the bridge between the store and the customer by making the book-keeping task simpler, digitised, and secure for small businesses. Through digital bookkeeping solutions, digital startups have given a complete digital makeover to the traditional register book—‘Bahi/Udhar Khata’. They have made the daily bookkeeping task simpler and effective for millions of mom-and-pop stores thereby digitally empowering them.
Digital bookkeeping apps are not just helping small businesses to keep track of credit transactions—both payments and receivables but it also sends timely reminders making it easier for mom-and-pop stores to collect and settle balance amounts quickly and accurately, on a click—with an integrated reminder feature via WhatsApp and SMS. This is improving transparency in business transactions and is facilitating a higher degree of trust among the Kirana store owners and customers.
The fact that such apps are completely free to access and ensures 100 percent safety, data security and accuracy has instilled confidence in Kirana store owners to embrace such solutions thus accelerating their transformation. This is also generating positive word of mouth for such solutions and stoking organic growth in their adoption by Kirana store owners who have found them to be simpler and easy to use hence making it an integral part of the business.
Launched barely a few years ago, digital bookkeeping apps are fast becoming a new rage among mom-and-pop stores in India. This trend is supported by growing internet and smartphone penetration.
Such applications have already changed lives for millions of mom-and-pop stores besides, mobile recharge shops, medical stores, apparels amongst others. In the unlock phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is, in fact, stronger demand for such solutions coming from small towns and hinterlands on a pan India basis with a strong recovery in demand coming from tier 3 cities followed by tier 2 and tier 1 cities.
It has been observed that strong referral triggered the adoption of digital bookkeeping tools among small businesses is a growing phenomenon in remote towns of India. This is due to positive word of mouth by the migrant population who have experienced digital tools and are sharing their experiences with local merchants. This bodes well for India’s digitally connected future and presents a big opportunity for mom-and-pop stores to improve efficiency and technology service providers to further capitalise on the digital bookkeeping opportunity.
While modern stores, along with e-commerce firms, are striving for the largest share of the retail pie, traditional retailers still hold a major landscape in India. Mom-and-pop stores are expected to continue to dominate the retail sector in the foreseeable future as the profound knowledge of the consumption pattern of the local consumer community and the most locally relevant assortment of goods for their consumer base makes them immortally evergreen. All they need to do is embrace modernisation and new-age digital solutions like digital bookkeeping to improve efficiency and earn customer trust.
—The author, Harsh Pokharna is Co-founder and CEO, OkCredit. Views are personal
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