Mr. Gagan Agarwal is the Managing Director and Founder, Ompanzo, India’s newest online business center dedicated to retail businesses in the unorganised sectors. He is a strategic advisor and a business transformation leader with over three decades of expertise and experience in hospitality, retail and e-retail business. Amidst the lockdown he launched the Ompanzo app for e-retail business in Delhi. The platform allows retailers to associate with Ompanzo and go online immediately. Ompanzo is a user-friendly mobile application that helps retailers connect with their customers and get serviced by the Ompanzo team of riders that facilitate the deliveries. The customer gets the convenience of making purchases from the comfort of their homes while for the retailer it opens up a wide new horizon of opportunities that includes wider outreach to customers i.e., access to a larger target audience than ever before, comfort of receiving payments online while ensuring doorstep delivery of their products to their customers.
Ever tried walking up to a roadside vendor & ask if he/she is able to make a living out of what they are is selling? We don’t really bother as much, right? I mean, it doesn’t really affect our lives, whether this person is able to make a modest living out of hawking. Well, some people do care! They certainly try to make a difference in the lives of other people & try to make it better while some, even reap profits out of crushing the less privileged & the ones that are negligible. The Roadside Vendor, most eminently falls under the same category. For one, they’re usually not selling anything unique or something that is not commonly available, and secondly, their self-employment/business does not have any impact on most people’s lives. Most companies making, managing or running their own online apps, e-commerce portals are exploiting the space between consumers & suppliers/sellers whilst there are few who have engaged other businesses with them & present themselves as a viable combination of a consolidated platform where the consumers may find, anything & almost everything. They have managed to make it into a large-scale business that is not only scalable but also sustainable.
There was this sudden surge in digital transactions in India, post demonetization. The Government was not in the proposing mode this time, the seriousness of the matter was witnessed through the policies this Government framed and this had an impact on each & every citizen of this country. So far, digital transactions only meant NEFT/IMPS or RTGS through Banking Establishments, but now suddenly all of that was superseded by exponential growth in the development, customization & most importantly, the use of mobile wallets in the country. The vendors weren’t standing aloof from this digital revolution that India was undergoing. This upsurge was pushed to its extremities during the COVID-19 pandemic; there was a large-scale demand and adaptation by citizens to use contact less QR code digital transactions. The Hawkers/Roadside Vendors, Small Shop-keepers, all responded quickly to these changes and the availability of QR code-based payments have already started driving digital money in the traditionally informal sectors.
Street vending is often the first resort for an unskilled person, looking to make a living or a migrant for whom finding an occupation in a city could be a tad difficult, hence any form of self-employment seems like a better alternative. Moving up the ladder of street vending is perceived in terms of – cost effective means of making an income without incurring establishment & logistical costs or keeping them as minimalistic as possible; they often offer improved margins; they are mostly at better location of doing business as they create their place of trade closest to their target customers; lower vulnerability of business loss is another fact that determines vendors’ approach & most of these vendors turn credit worthy.
Now, with wide usage of digital transactions and availability of access to credit for street vendors, there has been demand from unregistered vendors to register themselves with local bodies or these online apps, which is dedicated and encouraging the drive by urban local bodies to mainstream the informal vendors and helping to build database of the urban poor. Apart from these local bodies, the companies running online applications that are facilitating these roadside vendors to associate with them & go online, sell their products and find an alternative means of earning are definitely looking to the future of retail. They are bringing about an inclusive eco-system that allows everybody to survive & sustain, from an Online Giant to a Hawker/Roadside Vendor, everyone gets a share of the digital pie on offer & the segment that is at a win-win from both sides is the Consumer, entirely.
A major reason behind the massive growth of digitization of the retail world is because of the boom witnessed on the sales of handheld devices, especially smartphones and the availability of various mobile applications packed with brilliant features and amazing utilities. The modern-day consumer has become heavily dependent on these applications that empower them to have almost everything related to their lifestyle at their fingertips. Mobile apps seem to have invaded every sphere of our life and businesses. Despite the country’s rapid digitization, many remain firmly analogue or simply refuse to accept the eminence of this change.
The purchasing psychology and styles of consumers have been reformed and they are no longer dependent on a single source as they are served in the platter with choices galore. Consumers want information about products & services instantly at their fingertips and that knowledge is now available on the search-bar of their mobile devices or over a simple voice command. If one has strong online presence and has complemented that experience with an app that their customers can download into their devices, the chances of securing the highest ROI is stupendous.
While people, companies or corporations might straightaway want to dive into this money-pool, some entities have taken, a more holistic approach wherein the conceptualization of their digital platform or application would also benefit small business including hawkers & roadside vendors or maybe the self-employed. Unfortunately, only a few such companies have surfaced yet however as these entities find encouragement for their unique approach by authorities, local & Government bodies and simultaneously gather acceptance for the end consumer, more and more entities would want to venture into this territory. Luckily, India is not deprived of such compassionate people & businesses that have a more inclusive ideology. We are at the verge of finding ourselves, face-to-face with once such revolution in the digital space that would transform the modalities of online retail forever, and no-one will remain untouched.