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#9|Ganesh— Kirana Chronicles

Sustainability has to be a way of life to be a way of business — Anand Mahindra

55-year-old Ganesh has been running a stationery store in Bengaluru for the past 10 years. Many years of being in the business had got him accustomed to running things in a certain way, making it difficult to adapt to change. While Ganesh has adopted the latest payment methods such as the QR codes of digital payment apps, his transition was not an easy one.

Image courtesy: iStockPhoto

Business

  • Ganesh, the owner of a stationery store in North Bengaluru, has been in the business for 10 years. The store operates in a residential colony in the city. It remains open from 9 am in the morning up to 10 pm in the night.
  • The store has an average of 100–200 customers making transactions on a daily basis. They comprise of people from the neighbourhood, schools and offices nearby. The many years of running the store have brought him a good number of loyal customers; customers who
  • While Ganesh manages the store for the majority part of the day, his wife takes over when he returns home to rest in the afternoons.
  • The recent digital wave in the country has started to affect Ganesh’s business. “Everything is entered in the system (computer) these days; there is no real need to have any paper”, he says.

Payments

  • Ganesh’s store accepts payments from customers through cash, cards and QR codes of digital payment apps. Although he does accept payments through QR codes, it puts a load on him when several customers at the store. While one customer scans the code and is waiting for the payment to go through, Ganesh needs to cater to the others, all the while checking his phone for any confirmation messages received from the bank.
  • Ganesh pays his vendors through cash or cheques. Offices and schools that buy stationery items from Ganesh pay him in cheques.
  • A recent incident where his father-in-law fell prey to unresolved online fraud further alleviated his fear of using digital payment apps.

“Weekly around 20 agents from different companies come here. Why should I give everybody my mobile number and my account number? I heard some information about misuse through mobile; now I’m cancelling everything.”

“What this digital payment is doing is good, but at a time only we can’t take too many customers. It will take a long period. Everyone has to scan and all. Customers will have to wait till we receive the confirmation message.”

“One day the payment from the payment apps will be around Rs. 2000–3000. And on some days no one pays through the app.”

Banking

  • Ganesh pays his vendors in cheques. He also receives cheques from the bigger customers. This requires him to visit the bank or an ATM to deposit the money before the cheques come in for the next day.
  • When we asked Ganesh about loans, he proudly mentions that he has never taken a loan in his lifetime, neither will he ever take one.

“I visit the bank daily. I will check in my cheque book. Whatever I have given today, one day before you have to give. Now the cheques are all passed online. So we have to put the amount a day earlier. If it is not possible, I drop it at the ATM in the night.”

Accounts

  • Ganesh maintains a ledger to keep track of transactions made with bigger customers like schools and offices.

“There is one book with me and one with the customer. Every time a transaction is made they sign in my book and I sign in theirs.”

“When the customers buys some items, I will come to know how many pieces of that particular item are left, so I’ll remember that next time I have to ask for it.”

Vendor management

  • Ganesh deals with vendors from companies like Reynolds, Camlin, Uniball, etc. While most vendors accept cash, the ones who are registered accept cheques.
  • Demonetization reduced his credit period with his vendors from 45 days to 2–3 weeks. Ganesh continues to struggle to get accustomed to the new changes in the system.

“Payment is done after 10–20 days. Earlier it used to be 45 days credit. After the note ban, transactions have reduced business has also gone down. So, what they decided was — whatever the size of the purchase is, payment needs to be made immediately. That also has some problems. From 10 years we have been taking credit and paying only when things would get sold. If they suddenly change these things it is a problem to me. I’m suffering a lot..”

Customer management

  • The store sees a varied set of customers. Colony residents are regulars at the store. The schools and offices around his store often come to him and place orders in bulk.
  • Ganesh has around 20–30 customers who live outside the country. Every year on their trip to India, they take back with them lots of stationery items from Ganesh’s store.

“Office items and school items. There is a college nearby. A mixed set of customers come to the store. Some customer who work during the week come on the weekends. They buy whatever they need for the coming week.”

“I offer credit to the schools to whom I sell office supplies. Although they pay me back only after 6–7 months, they take school fees from parents even before the school reopens. I also tell them — give me payment within 5 days and I’ll give you how much ever you want.”

“Sales is very dull in March and April. March all the officials will be busy with the year-end. Schools and offices will be closed because of tests and exams. It goes up in the first week of May, right after GST around 5th, 6th. Nowadays they have reduced the material usage after GST. Everything is digital — just insert in the system, no question of maintaining the files and no question of auditor also. If they have a little knowledge like how I have, then they can do it themselves.”

Technology

  • When the digital India fever took over the country, Ganesh thought it was not well thought through move and would never take off in India. He was soon proven wrong without having to step out of his house. His mother, who could neither read nor write one day booked the monthly LPG supply through her phone.
  • Ganesh has a smartphone on which he uses digital payment apps to transact with his customers. A recent WhatsApp forward regarding misuse of bank account details was sent to Ganesh by a well-trusted friend of his. This has made him sceptical about payment apps.

“See, what they thought for example; gas booking can be made online or on the phone. So at that time, we thought how can the illiterate people do it when they can’t read and write. We thought this was all bogus and would not develop in India. Automatically it developed. My mother is uneducated, she never knew anything. But automatically when the gas finishes at home, she only books it.”

“It’s not difficult to use these apps. I don’t have any idea how to. But people will send money into my account. That comes. But I fear that if something happens in between then my money will go. I’m a little afraid.”

“See, we already got a WhatsApp message — you should not use these payment apps. Some people have faced issues. This message was sent to me by a lawyer. He has asked me to be cautious while making transactions on the digital payment applications.”

All that was not told

Observations of the researcher that were not covered as a part of the research.

A collection boy drops by at the store. “I don’t have my cheque book today. Come by next week”, Ganesh says. He dials the client’s number and hands over the phone to Ganesh. After a long conversation, Ganesh hands the phone back to the boy. The boy talks to his supervisor and heads back to where his bike was parked.

A fat book on the shelf stands out prominently; a white cover with ‘GST’ written on it in big bold letters. “This one is for sale, it’s for the very big companies who have crores together of turnovers. They need bills, so they take this.”, says Ganesh.

We buy a pen from Ganesh’s store. “This is a ball pen that writes like a gel pen”, he says as he continues showing us more such pens. We insist on paying him through the QR code. “Let me get the code scanner”, he says as he makes his way to inside the store, he comes back with the QR code stand. As we scan the code on the stand, he takes out his phone and opens his messages inbox waiting for the confirmation message to arrive. “Cash is 100%, card is 80% but this thing is very unpredictable”, he says. The message had not arrived. He opens the app to check for the transaction notification, “something is wrong with this internet”, he says as we continue waiting for the app to load on his phone.

Credits:

Interviewed by Apoorva Shetty and Puranjay Mahapatra
Analyzed and published for Medium by Apoorva Shetty

About the research:

This documentation is a result of the in-person interview, along with the participants’ consent. The interviews might be conducted in their native languages and translated to English in the best possible way to reach a large audience.

Disclaimer: The identities of people and places in this documentation have been changed to honour the privacy of the participants.

About D91 labs:

This research was executed and documented by D91 labs. D91 labs is an open-source initiative by setu.co to help Bharat build great fintech products. We organise and publish user research, insights, and frameworks for fintech in India. Please follow us on medium for more exciting stories and insights on Bharat.

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