Start-ups partner with local retailers and distributors to supply essential goods

Annapurani V Chennai | Updated on April 27, 2020

PhoneP has a ‘stores’ option on its platform that shows all local retailers in and around the customer’s vicinity

But home delivery and product pricing remain challenges

As the Covid-19-induced lockdown continues, start-ups are helping consumers buy essential goods through their platforms by tying up with kirana stores and offline retailers.

PhonePe, a payments app, for instance, has a ‘stores’ option on its platform that shows all the local retailers in and around the customer’s vicinity, ranging from grocery to healthcare to fuel. The platform has now introduced new filters such as ‘currently operational’ and ‘home delivery’ to make it easier for people looking to purchase essential goods.

Because people are not visiting shops fearing exposure to infection, these filters help them find out which shops are open and which provide home delivery services, said Vivek Lohcheb, VP, offline business development, PhonePe. Customers can then directly contact the shopkeepers from that list, he added.

To help customers pay the retailers without having to step out, PhonePe has also introduced an option called Pay Now, using which they can pay for their orders via the app, and the amount will be credited directly to the merchant’s account.

Tie-ups for delivery

CoutLoot, a social commerce platform, also recently launched a feature on its app that helps consumers buy essential goods from offline retailers through its platform. It also allows customers to find out if a product they are looking for is available in a particular store nearby or not, apart from other details such as a shop’s opening and closing times, availability of home delivery options, etc.

Jasmeet Thind, its co-founder, said that one of the biggest problems right now is that customers are not able to buy the stock they want. “People are just getting whatever they can and things go out of stock very fast…”

He added that the platform is focussing on aggregating the offline stores within 1-3 km of the customer’s area, to give substitutes to them when a product isn’t available at a particular shop.

“We are giving alternatives to people, saying that this product is not available in a particular shop. However it is available in the next shop which is, like, 2 km away,” Thind said.

But home delivery of these goods again is a hiccup because most staff who were employed by these retailers to help with delivery have migrated to their villages.

The demand for home delivery has increased but the capability of the stores (that provide the essential goods) to cater to that demand has decreased, said Phone Pe’s Lohcheb.

So, these start-ups are now tying up with third-party services and logistics companies to help during situations where the retailers aren’t able to deliver the goods home to the customers.

Catering to rural population

Boonbox, on the other hand, is partnering with local distributors and wholesalers to cater to the needs of the rural population in the country. The eCommerce platform supplies essentials to 1,000 villages in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Odisha currently.

“We have micro-entrepreneurs in the villages we cater to, who take the orders from people and send the order details to our app,” said Ramachandran Ramanathan, its founder and CEO. “Any order that gets placed till about 1 pm, we ship out the next morning, otherwise, it gets clubbed with the shipment that is sent out the day after,” he added.

Published on April 27, 2020

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