The Confederation of Indian traders or CAIT has teamed up with the government’s Department for Promotion of Industry & Internal Trade (DPIIT) to soon launch a national e-commerce portal which will enable local kirana stores to take orders online and ensure last-mile contactless delivery.
“Given the lockdown imposed in the country due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the launch of e-commerce marketplace will solve the challenges faced by the Indian population in tier II and III cities of India which are highly dependent on kirana stores for their daily supplies,” said Praveen Khandelwal, the secretary-general of CAIT in a statement.
The portal would have a digitally enabled payment system and CAIT will provide logistics and other support via its partners. The traders too would be able to choose their preferred partners.
Manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers of all verticals of domestic trade and consumers will be an integral part of this e-commerce platform and CAIT is looking to onboard around 7 crore traders of the country.
The traders’ body has been working on these e-stores for the past three months. Earlier, it had done a pilot with individual e-stores in states including Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. However, the project got delayed due to the ongoing lockdown.
The development is an effort to strengthen the supply chain during unprecedented situations but it will not be restricted to the present crisis. It will be a permanent e-commerce platform for digitising the existing business of the entire trading community of India, the statement added.
Besides DPIIT, Startup India, Invest India, All India Consumer Products Distributors Federation and Avana Capital are the other promoters of the portal.
Importantly, this launch comes in the backdrop of CAIT continuously approaching multiple ministries for the past several months with complaints of dominant anti-competitive practices including predatory pricing, promotion of private labels and deep discounting by Amazon and Flipkart, charges that have been previously denied by the two e-commerce leaders.
Recently, CAIT had also lobbied the government to not allow e-commerce players to deliver non-essential items during the second phase of the extended lockdown.
On Thursday, Amazon launched an India first initiative ‘Local shops on Amazon’, a program to enable small shops and retailers to sell their products online.
And on Wednesday, Jio platforms, Reliance Retail, and WhatsApp have also entered into a commercial partnership under which Reliance Retail’s new commerce business would be accelerated on the JioMart platform using WhatsApp.
Taken together, these developments augur well for India’s offline retail stores which have faced some challenges in the past from e-commerce platforms with their model of discounts and speedy doorstep delivery.
The latest announcement may help CAIT and offline stores to take on the e-commerce behemoths and somewhat get a level playing field.
Clearly this pandemic crisis is promising to become a silver lining for the many neighbourhood kirana stores.