In Gujarat, corner shop finds new way to fight big retail

By P.S. Anantharaman, IANS

Ahmedabad : In what could turn into a big movement, a band of small shopkeepers and traders here are learning to adopt modern business practices to hold their own against aggressive competition from retail giants.

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Their efforts are in sharp contrast to traders and street vendors in other parts of the country, who are fighting retail big business with a ‘quit retail’ campaign.

The Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA) has taken the initiative to conduct training programmes at its campus here. Two programmes are conducted every month. So far more than 200 traders and small vendors have participated in the programmes.

Mahendrabhai Patel, a participant, said his clientele were mainly construction workers living in a village around his shop. They now appreciate the improvement in quality of services provided by him and bring along new customers.

Patel is sure that far from being affected, his business is showing every sign of growing though his shop is only a few metres away from two retail chain outlets – Reliance Fresh and Subhiksha.

With the aid of computers and latest presentation techniques, participants of the training programme are taught how to understand customer needs and expectations and improve ambience of neighbourhood shops.

They also learn concepts like stock analysis, shelf life, unique selling proposition, reorienting distribution, delivering in quality packs, making efforts to win customers loyalty and providing value for money through enhanced customer satisfaction.

The participants are also taught to conduct strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats (SWOT) analysis on a continuing basis. Group discussions among them are encouraged.

The fee for the daylong programme is Rs.250. Amit Vasavada, head of local NGO Prasanna Foundation, is the trainer.

Vasavada says the programme is becoming popular. “The numbers involved may look small for now, but judging from the feedback the programme is eliciting, there is every indication that this movement will grow in intensity,” he claimed.

The AMA is working out a plan of action to spread the initiative in other parts of the state.

Vasavada told IANS that a major achievement of the programme so far has been that traders and shopkeepers are showing signs of coming out of the feeling that their businesses are lost forever and that the future is bleak.

He explained that in the daylong programme conducted in Gujarati, it is explained how participants can switch over to modern business practices without losing their traditional moorings.

Vasavada is confident that in keeping with its rich tradition of showing the way to others, Gujarat will become a role model on how to compete successfully with big retail chains.