Interview: Sameer Gandotra, Founder & CEO of Frendy, a Retail tech grocery chain

Sameer Gandotra

An interview with Sameer Gandotra, Founder & CEO of Frendy, a tech-enabled network of grocery Mini marts & micro kiranas for smaller towns and rural India.

Meet Sameer Gandotra, the visionary Founder & CEO of Frendy, revolutionizing rural India’s retail landscape with tech-enabled grocery Mini marts & micro kiranas.

With a passion for empowering small businesses, Sameer’s leadership has propelled Frendy to the forefront of innovation, bridging the gap between urban convenience and rural accessibility.

What inspired you to explore the concept of Modern Retail in rural India?

Sameer Gandotra: In our previous affordable housing business, we saw that consumers in small towns were becoming increasingly aspirational and we understood if aspiration exists on Makaan then it will also be there for Roti and Kapda.

We saw that customers in small towns and the surrounding rural catchment were not looking for better kirana they were looking for a better shopping experience and that is what Frendy with its Frendy Mart, Frendy Micro Stores & Frendy app seeks to bring to them.

What are some of the unique challenges and opportunities you see in bringing Modern Retail to rural areas?

Sameer Gandotra: I think that challenge is to provide a better shopping experience and at the same time make it profitable as we are looking at value customers and in the grocery segment where margins are slim.

At Frendy we believe that we have cracked the model and are looking to scale it in Gujarat. If you think about it, scaling in the same state means simpler procurement & simpler logistics.

Simpler is also cheaper and hence better margins. Gujarat is the population & per capita GDP of Vietnam where 7,000 branded small format grocery stores have been built in the last 10 years.

At Frendy, we aim to do the same starting with populating Gujarat with our Marts and micro stores and then taking out franchises to other States across India – but always one state at a time.

How do you envision adapting Retail Mart and their offerings to suit the preferences and purchasing power of rural consumers?

Sameer Gandotra: I wouldn’t call it luxury but aspirational. These customers have seen ads for new age brands but don’t have the wallets to pay for those brands. This is where Frendy’s private label comes in.

Frendy’s Brands are  aspirational, affordable & of fair quality comes in – there is nothing new in this strategy – modern grocery private labels from Costoc to Walmart have all been built on the same principles of offering a more affordable variant to the customer with the in store brand.

Can you elaborate on the strategies you believe would be most effective in building awareness and demand for Retail Mart in rural communities?

Sameer Gandotra: Word of Mouth & Whatsapp marketing ( which has become the de facto word of mouth) are the best ways to build awareness and Frendy leverages referral marketing , group buying to generate a lot of awareness for Frendy Marts, Frendy Micro Stores & Frendy’s Private Label Brands.

Given the infrastructure limitations in many rural areas, what logistical solutions do you propose to ensure a seamless Modern Retail experience?

Sameer Gandotra: Frendy’s Hub & Spoke Model overcomes this challenge. Each Frendy Mart is also a micro warehouse and serves as the distribution hub for about 50 micro stores. Typically, these micro stores or kiranas are located in the rural catchment areas which are in a 5 to 10 km radius of the Frendy Mart.

This hub and spoke model which operates on the digital rails of our Frendy Apps allows us to easily provide a seamless experience to our end customers who are digitally connected to us via the last mile micro kirana entrepreneur – the Frendy Partner.

How do you plan to address potential cultural differences and perceptions surrounding consumption in rural India?

Sameer Gandotra: India is many countries in one. Frendy plans to capture one state at a time. Focusing on a typical customer segment in Towns+ Rural makes things much simpler – they don’t have too many needs and they are pretty homogenous in their consumption habits vis a vis customers in Cities who can be quite heterogeneous living in the same building.

What role do you see technology playing in making Modern Retail accessible and appealing to rural consumers?

Sameer Gandotra: Frendy’s entire demand generation, fulfillment happens digitally especially for customers who are connected to our micro kirana. At Frendy, we believe that these customers need assistance and tech solutions with human trust , assistance & assurance is a winning model.

Tech should supplement the human element and that’s where the magic, we believe, lies.

How do you plan to collaborate with local communities and businesses to create a sustainable and mutually beneficial Modern Retail ecosystem in rural areas?

Sameer Gandotra: Frendy is an entrepreneur first business model. Frendy Marts are run by entrepreneurs and not employees and we leverage the existing network of Frendy Micro Kiranas and make their  supply easier and enhance their incomes with shorter cash cycles and allowing them to sell a digital endless aisle of products to their last mile customers.

What do you believe are the long-term benefits, both for rural consumers in expanding Modern Retail experiences to rural India?

Sameer Gandotra: 55% of our GDP is consumption. This consumption cycle is only going to get bigger and propel our economy forward. Access to products and improving community wellbeing is at the core of our mission.

With mobile phones and internet access, consumers in smaller towns today are more aware and aspirational. With rising incomes their ability to spend is increasing. Frendy is just completing the last A needed for consumption which is Availability.

In the dynamic world of rural retail, Sameer Gandotra’s Frendy stands as a beacon of innovation and empowerment. Through his visionary leadership, Frendy is not just a business venture but a catalyst for socio-economic transformation in smaller towns and rural India, connecting communities, empowering local entrepreneurs, and reshaping the future of retail.

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