How digital solutions helped India’s small merchants serve customers in lockdown

India’s small merchants embraced the changing retail trends during the pandemic.

BCCL
Retailers say digital solutions came to their rescue in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
For small businesses, the Covid-19 pandemic was more than just a storm in a teacup, says Karan Shah, director, Society Tea. Economic activity has since picked up, and a reading of the tea leaves, Shah reckons, portends a digital future. “Given the increased digital engagement during the pandemic, we have taken a digital-first approach, ensuring that we are present at all touch points where our consumers are,” he says.

Society Tea, a century-old Mumbai establishment, has relied on omni channel distribution networks and social media marketing to expand its footprint in other parts of the country. “During the pandemic, we were on various e-commerce retail platforms. Customer engagement and traction on our D2C website was encouraging and we look forward to growing this,” he adds.

Suumit Shah, founder, Dukaan, believes many small merchants reduced their reliance on third parties for delivery. “They’ve managed hyperlocal delivery by themselves. Delivery is now on their payrolls,” he says. Small vendors have also found buyers outside their local communities.


He cites the example of a Gujarat-based shoe seller. “This seller had a turnover of Rs 86 lakh last month shipping across India. Sellers from tier-two and tier-three towns are gaining popularity because of the internet,” he explains.

Changing times
Samir Bhatia, who heads the fintech company SMEcorner, says the pandemic induced several positive changes that bode well for the future. “Many merchants have either set up their own websites or are selling through aggregator platforms. Digital payment is being accepted. These measures have resulted in a significant growth in operating efficiency and opened up new markets. Consumers also feel a sense of loyalty towards these merchants,” Bhatia says.

But will small retailers be able to hold their own? KiranaKart co-founder Aadit Palicha believes they can. “Smaller merchants have the ability to cater to demand faster. They understand the local demographics better, and that leads to better stocking of products. Bigger stores are also likely to downsize to save on hefty rentals,” he says.
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Lone option
Small enterprises were also able to tide over the crisis as they were aided by the government’s loan moratorium scheme, and the infusion of fresh funds. “Last year has been a see-saw ride for the industry. Digital lending saw an upsurge, as small merchants turned to newer fintech companies for business loans. Our lending business grew 10x last year. We are currently facilitating disbursals of around Rs 200 crore every month,” says Suhail Sameer, group president, BharatPe.

Vedanarayanan Vedantham, who heads the SME business of Razorpay, says digitisation since the lockdown has been greater than post-demonetisation. “Overall, online transactions in 2020 grew by 80 per cent. Tier-two and tier-three towns demonstrated growth of 92 per cent growth compared to 2019.

6 Online Services Which Make Renting A Better Deal Than Buying
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Is it cheaper to rent or to buy? One can argue this for hours but the truth is, there can be multiple reasons for which you would find renting proves to be better than purchasing. India has a number of online services available today that you can use to rent everything you want.

Is it cheaper to rent or to buy? One can argue this for hours but the truth is, there can be multiple reasons for which you would find renting proves to be better than purchasing. India has a number ..
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Currently serving 8 cities, Rentomojo offers rentals for furniture, motorbikes and electronics. The website is regularly updated with new products and though the selection is limited, there are a lot of details available for each product to make an informed decision.

Personal gadgets (phones, laptops) can be rented for up to 18 months while other electronic products, motorbikes and furniture can be rented for up to 36 months.

They also offer a ‘rent-to-own’ option — if you’ve been renting something for 12 months, you can buy and keep the product by paying the balance. Note that home appliances and furniture have to be rented for a minimum of 3 months.

(Image: www.rentomojo.com)

Currently serving 8 cities, Rentomojo offers rentals for furniture, motorbikes and electronics. The website is regularly updated with new products and though the selection is limited, there are a lot..
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Available in 5 cities, Rentickle offers rentals of DSLR cameras, home appliances and furniture. Like Rentomojo, this one also offers a rental period of up to 36 months for home appliances and furniture.

However, DSLRs can be rented for a maximum of 7 days only. The website supports user reviews — you can see reviews for each product before renting.

The minimum rental period of home appliances and furniture is 1 month. Another useful feature of the service is that they offer the option of one free relocation of the item during the rental period.

(Image: www.rentickle.com)

Available in 5 cities, Rentickle offers rentals of DSLR cameras, home appliances and furniture. Like Rentomojo, this one also offers a rental period of up to 36 months for home appliances and furnitu..
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This one is a recent entrant in the space but already offers services in seven major cities. Unlike the others, RentSher does not offer home furniture or appliances. It has different categories including party supplies (bouncy for children, lighting, decorations), audio/video (projectors, LED walls, public address systems), fancy dresses, computers, DSLR cameras and even medical supplies such as wheelchairs and medical beds.

Rental for most products is available on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. RentSher will also charge delivery and pickup charges depending on location.

(Image: www.rentsher.com)

This one is a recent entrant in the space but already offers services in seven major cities. Unlike the others, RentSher does not offer home furniture or appliances. It has different categories inclu..
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Getitrent has been around for 7 years and deals mainly in IT equipment rentals. They have offices in eight cities but can provide rental services pan India.

You can rent laptops, desktops, CCTV cameras, tablets, servers, printers, scanners, projectors and even walkie-talkies. Most products can be hired on a weekly or monthly basis and they also offer a purchase option on a case-by-case basis.

One downside to Getitrent is that they require you to either call them or request a callback from their executive to finalise a deal.

(Image: www.getitrent.com)

Getitrent has been around for 7 years and deals mainly in IT equipment rentals. They have offices in eight cities but can provide rental services pan India. You can rent laptops, desktops, CCTV camer..
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Rentx uses a classifieds model for renting instead of being a standalone entity. This means anyone can register and list their own items for rent in their area.

Rentx plays no role in the quality check of the product so you will have to check the product for any defect/damage yourself before finalizing the deal. There are rentals in multiple categories (electronics, vehicles, furniture, clothes, books, sports facilities, medical facilities etc.).

Each listing has details regarding rental charges, deposit charges, duration and product details. Note that the website does not have many active users currently and thus the listings are not regularly added/updated.

(Image: rentx.in)


Rentx uses a classifieds model for renting instead of being a standalone entity. This means anyone can register and list their own items for rent in their area. Rentx plays no role in the quality che..
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Furlenco is one of our favourite services for furniture rentals. The service caters to 8 cities, offers individual products for your entire home and even lets you create packages according to your needs.

For a majority of products, minimum rental tenure is 3 months and the amount you pay includes delivery and setup. They also offer long term rental plans with additional savings but you will need to speak to customer care to fix that up.

Other things we love about Furlenco include free relocations, damage waiver up to `10,000, cancellation of subscription up to 7 days without any fee and the option to pause your subscription if you are away for long durations.

(Image: www.furlenco.com)

Furlenco is one of our favourite services for furniture rentals. The service caters to 8 cities, offers individual products for your entire home and even lets you create packages according to your ne..
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