There are about 12 million Kirana stores in India ranging from large stores in cities to tiny village shops servicing a few hundreds. A significant number of these stores sell food and groceries, along with other household supply products.,
The harsh reality is that during lockdown several hurdles were encountered by them. In states like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Gujarat Kirana owners were not allowed to open there stores or procure essential items, several owners failed to source fresh fruits and vegetables as the local Mandis and agriculture produce market committee markets were shut down.
Panic buying led to faster depleting stocks, and the stores ran out of stock without replenishment, as the supply chains of FMCH companies were disrupted. This led to shortage of essential items and crowding at modern retail outlets that contribute only 8% in the overall food and groceries category. At a time when kiranas were largely relying on wholesalers and cash and carry outlets for there stock renewal, with restrictions imposed on them, neighbourhood stores were unable to replenish, source, stock and self essential items to end customers.
Today as state governments allow both brick and mortar retailers and e-commerce sellers to sell and deliver non essential items and professional services, some state governments are holding back. Needless to say, this graded easing allowing non essential item sales keeping Covid-19 mitigation guidelines intact will help Kiranas, who have so far only been allowed to sell essential items.
This intervention in necessary to open up the economy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s May-12 appeal to go vocal go local fits like a glove into the scheme of things. State governments should liaise with, and aid law and order authorities, to enable the smooth functioning of all stores so that standard operating procedures (SOPs) during these Covid -19 times are compiled.
Kiranas should be allowed to operate normally with the aforementioned checks and balances in place. The free flow of the supply chain is the need of the hour.e