A Dongle Can Help Digitise Your Small Business

Near.Store has developed a plug-and-play dongle that can be used at any existing billing system of any business unit
  • BY Jaspreet Kaur

    Feature Writer, BusinessEx

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  • Apr 02,2021
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  • 12 Mins Read

Digitizing the business has now become a survival strategy for micro-businesses. During the crisis, when working remotely was a mere alternative, small and micro businesses immensely suffered for not being acquainted with the technology. To aid SMEs in the digitization process, various companies came forward. One such company is the Mumbai-based company, Near.Store. The startup runs an online platform for small and medium retailers that creates an individual store e-commerce site for stores on its cloud. 

The company has developed a plug-and-play dongle that can be used at any existing billing system of any business unit. 

"After plugging the dongle into the billing machine, whichever product is sold gets automatically cataloged online thereby, Kirana Store owners begin offering products to online customers," Ashish Kumar, Co-founder at Near.Store  

Gaining Trust of Kirana Store Owners

According to a report by McKinsey, trade, both wholesale and retail, is a large part of India’s economy and is getting larger. The sector accounts for 10 per cent of India’s GDP and 8 per cent of employment. Despite its size, much of the country’s retail sector is dominated by small mom-and-pop stores (Kirana Stores). More than 80 per cent of all retail outlets in India—mostly sole proprietorships or family-run shops—are part of the cash-driven informal economy.

As micro-businesses are deprived of the technology, it had become difficult for the company to gain the trust of Kirana Store Owners. The store owners traditionally doubted if the dongle would steal their data or customers’ data. To assure store owners, the company started giving in-person demonstrations. Sales professionals plug the data into the billing system and demonstrate data that the dongle receives, which is merely barcode information of the products. They showcase the process to Kirana store owners transparently to help them understand. 

Sailing Through the Storm 

In the first year of establishment, the company had to face pandemic-led adversity. Since it is indirectly offering aid in supplying essential services, it managed to sustain itself in the market. It assisted grocers in swiftly launching their products online. 

However, the pandemic halted the expansion plans of the company as it was not able to expand over 60 stores that were added into its network in the initial quarter of 2020. Lockdown restricted mobility thereby, sales professionals could not reach grocers and business was static in the beginning.  

At present, It claims to be live at over 300 odd stores in Mumbai. It asserts to have a budget of 1,000 stores in Bengaluru and Gurugram. 

Focusing on the rising competition in the Indian digitizing industry, app-based firms are facilitating small businesses. Amid application-based platforms, the plug-and-play dongle is one of its kind that addresses the needs of Kirana Store owners.

To help entrepreneurs in the unorganized sector, it is planning to launch its second product named, Dhanda Book. 

"Dhanda Book is an application wherein any seller can download and set up their store. Unlike the company’s first product (Dongle), the app does not need to have a store to utilize the application. People, who have home-based businesses such as chefs, mobile cover sellers, and dairy product sellers, etc can utilize the app. It will help create an online store, and embody a catalog creation tool. It will also allow you to receive UPI payments and track your orders," Kumar told BusinessEx. 

Future Plans 

In the offing, the company is going to focus on emerging small brands. Understanding the challenges that small brands go through, it will soon start aiding homegrown brands. The startup will also increase its footprint across the country. It primarily plans to venture into tier-1 cities and grow its nexus. 

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