Mumbai: With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, panic-buying and fear of contagion forced Indians to change their shopping habits, and consumers turned to digital solutions to obtain essential goods. LoveLocal, a hyperlocal e-commerce marketplace, is helping in this process. The Sunday Guardian spoke to Akanksha Hazari, CEO & Founder, LoveLocal. Excerpts:
Q: How has Covid-19 impacted the retail sector, particularly the small format ones? How has the digital wave fueled the need for retailers to go online?
A: The global coronavirus pandemic had a severe and significant impact on consumer behavior, demand for essential items, retail outlets, and the availability of logistics services. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit forcing physical stores to shut down, retailers turned to online storefronts to serve their customers while maintaining social distancing. However, because of increased consumption demand and supply shortages of essential items with e-commerce players/e-retailers, small format local retailers selling essential items stayed afloat due to accessibility. But challenges such as contactless service and lockdown-induced short operational hours did have an impact on their business. Despite the challenges, local retailers strove to keep their businesses afloat by offering home deliveries, takeaways, and online orders.
The digital wave enabled and empowered local retail stores to continue operations during the nationwide lockdown, with up to a 50% increase in business.
Q: How is LoveLocal helping the small format retailers in times like the pandemic?
A: Our platform enables local retailers to smoothly transition to a digital presence while also empowering them to compete with large ecommerce platforms. Retail is a demanding, 24×7 business and many retailers do not have the time or resources to learn new technology. With LoveLocal, retailers get a single platform for all of their retail needs, from data-driven smart catalogues to access to new digital customers. They do not need to pay any margin or commission to LoveLocal, which is a key differentiator.
Q: How has the journey since the launch been?
A: Our journey has been exciting and enriching, with new learnings every day. LoveLocal launched in January 2020 and has grown 20x since then, with over 51,000 retailers and 2.5 lakh consumers registered on the platform to date.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: Over the next 3-5 years, we aim to partner with one million retailers and expand to Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities. We intend to invest more in key hires, product development, and accelerated expansion in Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities.