One Day in a Kirana Store*
My neighbour Prakash runs a kirana shop named Kailash Vandar in Dum Dum, located on the outskirts of Kolkata. He has a turnover of about ₹ 15,000 per day. Prakash’s shop has a variety of products and nearly 100 customers visit his shop everyday. Having been in business for 37 years, he had built a good rapport with his customers. On a Sunday afternoon, I visited Prakash to experience a typical day in his life. During the interaction, he told me that every customer has their own requirements across a wide spectrum of products. It is not always possible to cater to the needs of all customers. Handling customers at a shop is quite different from handling employees in the office.
Kailash Vandar was initially started by his father, and Prakash later joined the family business. Since then, every single day has been a learning experience for him, and he has gotten better and better with time. Of all the customers, he made mention of Nita, who is a regular visitor to his shop. Prakash narrated an incident. Nita usually bought Sunsilk Black Shine shampoo from his shop. However, on that day she asked Prakash to suggest a different shampoo. She was joined by her friend Popi, who lived in the same locality. The conversation between the customers went like this:
Nita: Hi! How are you?
Popi: Oh! I am fine.
Nita: What are you here for?
Popi: I came to buy soap. What about you?
Nita: I came to buy Sunsilk Black Shine shampoo.
Popi: Oh! Please do not use that shampoo. I had been using it previously, but it resulted in a lot of hair loss in the past few months. Instead, try Pantene Smooth & Silky. It is quite good.
Nita: Oh really! Is it?
- Do you think that Nita will buy the same product? Support your statement with explanations.
- Explain its impact on customers’ buying habits.
Prakash faces similar situations in his shop almost everyday. He cited one more incident when a boy named Santosh came to his shop. The conversation between buyer (Santosh) and shopkeeper (Prakash) went like this:
Santosh: What is the price of this packet?
Prakash: ₹ 15.
Santosh: And this one? (Showing the biscuit packet in hand)
Prakash: ₹ 18.
Santosh: Why is the price of this one higher than the branded ones?
Prakash: It is from a local bakery shop. It is handmade, sir.
Prakash: Can you give it to me for ₹ 16?
How will you handle this customer as a shopkeeper?
Prakash continued, ‘these kinds of situations are a common sight in a kirana shop. The most difficult part is to handle customers who bargain a lot. They quote such low prices that it becomes impossible for us to satisfy them. I have a very low profit margin on almost all products. Some of the customers are also brand conscious and try to avoid local products even though they are sometimes better’.
How will you (as a shopkeeper) convince the customer to buy the locally made (unbranded) products?
Prakash narrated one more experience: ‘There was one more incident when a customer visited my shop for buying a new product which he had never tried earlier. The boy had come to buy a razor and was baffled on seeing all the different razors available.’
The conversation between buyer (boy) and seller (Prakash) went as follows:
Prakash: Which one would you like to buy?
Boy: Wait Uncle. I need some time to choose.
Boy: Please tell me the price of these three razors.
How should Prakash help the customer decide which product to buy?
After having exchanged notes with Prakash about his daily experiences, I interviewed a regular customer of Kailash Vandar to get a customer’s perspective.
Me: Hi Sabina! How would you describe your experience as a customer of Kailash Vandar?
Sabina: I have been a regular customer of Kailash Vandar for a decade. I have grown up buying products from this shop. Being such an old shop, its popularity is increasing day by day. Apart from this, due to the absence of any other kirana store, it is quite dominant in this area. And due to this, one has to wait a lot to buy products from this store due to the rush all the time.
Me: How would you describe a good kirana shop?
Sabina: Any good kirana shop should offer a wide range of consumer products and the shopkeeper should behave properly with customers.
Me: Are there any problems you face at Kailash Vandar?
Sabina: Yes. Sometimes there are issues regarding the local products they sell. I don’t prefer local products at all. Apart from this, many of the products sold have expiry dates within a month or two. One should also maintain cleanliness in a shop.
Me: Thank you for talking to me.
- As a marketing professional, how would you solve the problems mentioned by Sabina?
- Analyse the above situation from the perspectives of buyers as well as sellers?
- How can you improve the relations between a buyer and a seller in a kirana store?