Local shop owners recount how digital enablement is driving transformation of their stores
Paras Kochar runs a computer and accessories store in Thillai Nagar, Trichy. Ranging from computers to components to laptops, desktops, earphones and DSLR camera, Kochar Computers has a wide selection of products from different brands in the category. Om Prakash of Omex Designs from Chattarpur in Delhi have been selling home furniture products for over a decade now and specialise in outdoor furniture like swings, bean bags, plant pot stands amongst others. Harun Rashid from Cool n Cool Engineers in Jaipur’s Jayanti Bazaar sells all types of air coolers and air conditioners and has been in this business for decades.
Today, these sellers, along with their loyal offline customers, have breached the geographical boundary in which they were operating and have added a whole new set of customers who are shopping with them. All thanks to the Amazon India's Local Shop program. The online e-commerce platform, which connected them to customers pan-India has seen them tide over difficult phases in their business as they embraced online, even as they continued their offline business.
'We needed sales to tide over pandemic blues'
Paras joined Local Shops on Amazon in the first week of September 2020, as a way to increase overall business. Talking about his move to Local Shops, Paras said, “This category has been suffering for some time now and the pandemic made things worse with reduced footfalls. The rentals have a big impact on our business and with competition increasing, the possibility of making profits was diminishing. We wanted to try out e-commerce, but weren’t sure. However, partnering with Amazon.in has allowed us to substantially increase sales. In fact in the last 6-7 months, we have seen our business grow by over 30% while all the other expenses like rent etc. have stayed the same. Selling online has enabled us to make more revenue and profits, but more importantly – our presence on Local Shops on Amazon has been like an advertisement for my store. In one way, it helps that information from Amazon redirects them to my physical store and it also enables them to make purchases online.”
When asked about growth plans, Paras said, “We always wanted to offer our customers high-end products also. There is a demand for high end niche products even in smaller cities and we wanted to offer the same to our customers but, there were challenges on stocking inventory and the going demand for the same. Customers, often don’t buy high end products from smaller stores. How our presence on Amazon is helping us is that people who see our selection on Amazon and at our store trust us even more. We are getting a lot of repeat customers because of Local Shops on Amazon.”
In fact, in the last 6-7 months, we have seen our business grow by over 30% while all the other expenses like rent etc. have stayed the same. Selling online has enabled us to make more revenue and profits,
Online brings respite
Technology adoption and digital enablement are often used synonymously and the process has been accelerated by the pandemic. From online shopping to e-classrooms to digital payments and virtual happy hours – the world around is way more digital than it was 12 months ago. Take Om Prakash of Omex Designs from Chattarpur in Delhi. They have been selling home furniture products for over a decade now and specialise in outdoor furniture like swings, bean bags, plant pot stands amongst others. “Business was good initially. We were good at what we were doing and customers liked coming to our store and buy products for their homes. But overtime, customers got more choices – both offline and online and it had an impact on our business as well. We had gone from weekly sales of INR 2 lakh to INR 35,000”.
Om Prakash registered with Local Shops on Amazon program about a year ago, he says, “While we were not much aware of ecommerce, we wanted to experiment as a lot of business had moved online. As a customer I knew Amazon.in was the best marketplace and I trusted it the most. During the lockdown months, we received little to no orders through our offline store but slowly, the orders through Amazon started picking up and we were able to sell the inventory we had accumulated for offline purchases. This brought us some respite in this difficult period.”
'Truck full of orders almost every day'
It has been a learning experience for Om Prakash and his team. Now, even after a few months of being on the marketplace he says they often make errors and take time to understand the process. When asked about his transition from offline to online with Amazon, this is what he had to say, “I cannot even begin to describe just how much support the seller team has given me while venturing into this completely unknown space. They helped me save so much capital by explaining the process of taxes and commission well and keeping me completely updated and informed about the finance aspect of our partnership. Little drops make a mighty ocean, and it has been like that for us, one step at a time.” He adds, “Not long ago, we would scramble to fill one small tempo with orders for the day. But with Amazon, I send a truck full of orders almost every day. Local Shops on Amazon has allowed me a 60% growth in sales in just a few months. From a team of 8 people, today, because of Amazon, I have a staff of about 22 people.”
'We now have direct access to customers pan India'
To leverage the ecommerce opportunity, Harun Rashid from Cool n Cool Engineers in Jaipur’s Jayanti market brought his business online and joined Local Shops on Amazon about a year back. “We realized that the offline market was dying, and the opportunity that e-commerce provided was too important to ignore. Simply put, at our store - we could only expect customers from our localities, or areas within 10-15km in Jaipur, hence our opportunities were limited. Out of 130 crore people in India, about 55 crore are the youth out of which 20 crore people shop regularly, and we wanted to reach these 20 crore people. With online retailing we have a direct access to consumers pan India and we wanted to increase our sales and profit. Moreover, today, people want everything from the comfort of their own homes.”
We realized that the offline market was dying, and the opportunity that e-commerce provided was too important to ignore.
On asking Rashid, why Amazon.in to start his ecommerce journey with, he says, “Everyone who is shopping online, shops on Amazon, so the access to customers was the biggest driver and I think Amazon is even more relevant to our category. And it has been the right choice not just in terms of sales but overall. From listing my products right; to product images to product packaging and delivery to finance, the seller management team has taught us everything. Today I know account management because of them, and they continue to provide me support and guidance whenever required.”
Talking about his growth through Local Shops on Amazon, “After joining Local Shops we have seen a nearly 8X increase in business within a period of 3-4 months which has been remarkable. The growth in business meant we needed more resources to fulfil that demand, thus from a team of 2 when we began, today we have expanded to a team of 16 people. This year we have a target to expand our inventory and selection on Amazon.in and double our online business.”
Supplementing the footfalls with a digital presence
Today, Paras, Om Prakash and Harun are three of more than 50,000 offline retailers and neighbourhood stores on the ‘Local Shops on Amazon’ program. Launched in April 2020, the program brings the benefits of ecommerce to offline retailers and neighbourhood stores. It helps supplement the existing footfalls at their stores with a digital presence on Amazon.in and expands their reach beyond the normal catchment. With Local Shops on Amazon, customers can discover products from local shops in their city (many they already trust and love!) from the convenience of their homes while helping local shops transform into digital stores. Local Shops on Amazon has played a key role in helping sellers across India sustain their livelihoods and jumpstart their business amidst the unprecedented pandemic.