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Grocery retail is a business like none other in India. It’s got large business houses, multinational behemoths, well-funded startups, and millions of resilient neighbourhood stores. And all of them are scrambling for the opportunity to become the destination of choice for a customer’s weekly or monthly shopping. And in a country of nearly 1.4 billion, that opportunity is a gargantuan one indeed.

The pandemic not only made the $460 billion grocery retail market the centre of attention but also made the offline-online binary seem simplistic.

Urban residents walking to the gates of their apartment complexes to collect their online orders became a common sight during the lockdown. E-grocers were now a closer substitute for supermarkets and kiranas (mom-and-pop neighbourhood stores) than they had ever been.

The coming year will see the already paper-thin wall between them come tearing down.

The future of brick-and-mortar chains is, not surprisingly, in being omnichannel players. Reliance Retail is a case in point. The country’s largest supermarket chain also wants to be an online giant. In May, Reliance rolled out its online grocery service, JioMart JioMart Reuters Reliance launches JioMart online grocery service, challenging Amazon, Flipkart Read more , in 200 cities.

E-grocers would be able to serve more pin codes faster if they could deliver from a network of supermarkets in addition to their warehouses. JioMart went one step further—it relies not just on Reliance’s 800 supermarkets but also on a vast network of kiranas, giving it an on-ground presence unlike any other company.

That train of thought was also what prompted Amazon to buy a 3.6% 3.6% BloombergQuint Amazon To Buy 49% In Kishore Biyani’s Future Coupons, Values Future Retail At $5.8 Billion Read more at: Read more indirect stake in Future Retail in August 2019, with an intention to up its stake later. Future Retail owns the BigBazaar chain of supermarkets. The move could have also given Amazon an edge of its arch-rival, the Walmart-owned Flipkart.

But Reliance pipped Amazon at the post four months ago by striking a deal to buy Future Group’s retail, wholesale, and logistics businesses for Rs 24,700 crore Rs 24,700 crore Bloomberg Reliance Buys Future Assets for $3.4 Billion Read more ($3.4 billion). Amazon has contested the acquisition, which is now the subject of a legal battle legal battle The Economic Times ‘Big Brother’ Amazon targeted in fight with Mukesh Ambani over Kishore Biyani's Future Read more .


Seetharaman G

Starting out as a business journalist in 2008, Seetharaman has written about energy, climate change, retail, banking, and technology. He has worked with Business Today, a fortnightly, and the Sunday edition of The Economic Times.

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