Sakshi Khandelwal, from North West Delhi, had long desired to start something of her own, but it was not until 2017 that she finally managed to launch her own shop in Nangloi, Shiv Electronics. Over the years, customers would drop in to her store for all things gadgets and electronics, including large appliances. To expand her reach and cater to customers beyond her locality, Sakshi recently joined the newly launched ‘Local Shops on Amazon’ programme. Her tryst with e-commerce, she says, has since brought in new customers as well as higher revenues.

“Since joining Local Shops on Amazon, we have started selling to customers beyond where our retail shop is located. We have seen our online business grow month on month, but more importantly this program offers us greater control over the inventory and delivery of the products. We started the year with three employees, and today we have 10 team members. With the festive season approaching, we are hiring more delivery executives and stocking up our inventory as we expect high number of customer orders,” shares Sakshi.

Asked about how the programme trumps the local shop experience, Sakshi cited predictability as the best aspect of it all. She says, “When a customer would walk into my shop, the first few minutes would be spent browsing, gently pointing them to the right direction, before starting the choice and negotiation process. With ‘Local Shops on Amazon’, I get the order straightaway. All I have to do is check the inventory and dispatch the product, saving me and my customers a huge amount of time.” A thorough businesswoman, Sakshi puts the gift of time from online selling right back into the business to grow it further, and spends the rest of her day creating memories with her family.

Merging online benefits with offline presence

Going beyond the individual scope of offline and online stores, the ‘Local Shops on Amazon’ program brings the benefits of both worlds together. Today, there are more than 20,000 Local Shops sellers on Amazon across 400 Indian cities—from Meerut, Ludhiana and Saharanpur to Surat, Indore, Ernakulum and Kanchipuram. Launched in April 2020, the program has scaled rapidly in recent months with more than 40% of these sellers joining in from beyond the top 10 cities of India. These local shops are leapfrogging the commentary of “offline vs online” by embracing technology to transform themselves into digital and hybrid stores.

Take the story of Raju Lakshmana from Nagarbhavi in Bengaluru. For over a decade, Raju worked in the finance sector, while his heart lay in owning a furniture business. Before realising his dream, Raju went about gathering as much experience as he could by jointly running a furnishing business with a friend. Finally when he felt the time was right for him to fly solo, Raju, launched his own store, Sri Sai Vinayaka Furniture.

“It felt like the right time, earlier this year, to do something of my own and start a shop. Our products like wooden cots, leather sofas, fabric sofa and wooden sofas, Dr. Back and PEPS Mattresses are all known for their high quality in our locality, but I wanted to sell beyond Nagarbhavi, to all of Bengaluru, and that’s where Local Shops program gave me a leg up. In the last three to four months, we have received over 500 orders and registered 50-60% higher growth through online selling vis-à-vis offline”, says Raju. With the onset of the pandemic and rise of the ‘work from home’ culture, Raju quickly identified new trends in the market and focused on selling office chairs and tables online. Interestingly, today Raju has progressed from greeting 20-25 customers at his shop to the ringing of online orders 24x7, even when he is asleep!

Expanding their reach in the festive season

Just like Sakshi, Raju too believes that selling online brings in greater certainty. Both unanimously agree that ‘Local Shops on Amazon’ offers them greater control over their inventory, higher sales and better turnovers. With the festive season around the corner, Raju is excited to add another delivery vehicle and expand his team to meet the higher order flow and achieve five times the sales over Prime Day 2020. Sakhi, meanwhile, hopes to clock in a good festive season by crossing Rs. 1 crore in sales.

The pandemic has changed the way we live and work, creating daunting challenges for small businesses around the world. Many small businesses had to pivot their operations to meet these new challenges, which has also given rise to incredible and inspiring moments. One of the most significant trends this year has seen MSMEs adopting the online business model with e-commerce offering small businesses the opportunity to continue serving their customers, reviving and growing their businesses, and even creating new jobs in the process.