In 1998, Anup Kumar Khandelwal went to Dubai to help set up the agri-commodities business his family had founded in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
While in the Middle East he chose to work for different companies to understand businesses and their functioning. “I understood how grocery retail worked in India and globally for over two decades,” he says.
When he returned to India in mid-2016, he saw that organised retail had undergone a complete change. However, kirana stores remained the same.
Conceptualising building a Retail as a Service (RaaS) business with Kirana stores, Anup founded Jaipur-based retail store aggregator Kirana King.
“Kirana King works as a grocery retail store aggregator for kiranas. We focus on empowering and enhancing the retailer’s quotient by ensuring seamless supply chain efficiencies at shelf management level. We also help them connect the dots of the entire consumer journey for creating outreach to their end consumers with a mix of tech and RaaS-based interventions,” Anup explains.
Kirana King works with leading FMCG brands, regional, and local brands to help retailers build product selection based on the availability on their shelves, create consumer connect, and build brand marketing efforts.
Anup says Kirana King connects brands, retailers, and consumers in the grocery industry space as an aggregation platform covering a 360-degree loop. The platform covers major touchpoints of the entire experience, including the retailer and the end consumer.
It works on the experience level in the store, convenient layout, improved merchandising, tech-related interventions for consumer’s ease, digital payment infrastructure etc. The startup also helps build better margins with wider assortments on shelves, scale of economies, new monetisation opportunities, faster logistics solutions etc.
“These are very important stages for any grocery retail business and we offer a comprehensive aggregation platform to all franchise stores under a single umbrella brand of Kirana King,” Anup says.
The founder explains that the tech acts as an enabler, and the B2B app allows retailers to place orders with fulfilment centres easily. It also offers data insights in terms of product mix, sales mix, and product movement cycle, which helps them managing inventories.
The B2C solutions that the retailer can extend give consumers the flexibility and choice to tag themselves to nearby Kirana King stores as per their pincode and avail either “Home Delivery” or “Click and Collect” services. A win-win for retailers and their end consumers!
“Our Retail PoS solutions are also developed purely for kirana retailers with a lot of analysis in terms of operational bottlenecks and consumer behaviour. Our Signature Retail PoS solution GROPOS, which is only designed for internal network use, has been picking up pace and acceptability with retailers,” Anup says.
The foremost and initial challenge at the start of ideation and developing a minimum viable product (MVP) was to understand the psychology of the kirana retailer, who “thinks differently from conventional modern retailers”.
Apart from that, the grocery retail or convenience retail operations is different in India from its counterpart in the Middle East and South East Asia Region.
Given the problem of supply chain and agile demographics – the taste and preferences changes after every 5 km – you cannot address the problem statement of Indian grocery retail with those of global norms or SOPs.
Anup says you need to be on the ground and spend hours, days, and months to see the gaps and offer a practical solution that enhances the lives of these retailers on a long-term basis. This was one of the challenges for the team – “breaking their resistance to change”.
“Once we knew the pain point, we quickly came to a solution. We knew there was a severe lack of a single comprehensive platform that could provide all services of modern retailing to kiranas,” Anup says.
However, it was also important that the platform be relevant to retailers. “Today, we are a network of 200+ stores in Jaipur and nearby ancillary areas and we aim to touch the 1,000-store mark by the end of 2021 in various part of Rajasthan.”
Team, funding, and model
Once Anup had the idea in place, he roped in his friends and colleagues – Deepak Dusad, Balwant Singh Rana, and Madan Kumar Gandam – into the core team. They come with close to two decades of experience in the fields of finance, IT, and supply chain management.
The team has raised a pre-Series A round from Rajasthan Venture Capital Fund (RVCF). They plan to raise $3 million for the next stage of the growth journey.
“We offer a bundle of services to our franchise network retailers that they can only avail with our brand network for a nominal one-time registration and annual recurring subscription fees. If you are a standalone retailer and lack the resources and capabilities to develop intricacies of modern grocery retailing on your own, we are the best possible option,” Anup says.
While the team refused to share how much they charge, they make revenue from annual franchise subscription fees from kirana stores, recurring income from branding/visibility (physical and digital) and margin from ancillary services, and trade mingin ddistribution and benefits of Economy of Scale ( eB2B ).
“We plan to create a network of about 1,000+ stores by the end of 2021 in Rajasthan. We further plan to expand to other strategic areas of North, West, and Central India and would work towards building a network of approximately 7,000 Kirana King stores by fiscal 2025,” Anup says.