Malleswaram, a residential district in north-west Bengaluru, is famous for its old temples. In the narrow, bustling alleys, everyone knows the way to Nagesh Prabhu’s shop. The little grocery store measuring just over 9 square metres has been in his family for 5 decades. It is one of the many neighbourhood shops in Bengaluru, the capital of the state of Karnataka in southern India. Nagesh Prabhu and his wife cater to the residents of their urban neighbourhood, who can buy all their day-to-day requirements here from early morning till late in the evening – everything from soap and cleaning products to coffee, juice, rice and lentils. The 51-year-old knows exactly what his customers want and need. His assortment consists of around 1,000 items but is tailored exactly to his patrons’ preferences. Nagesh Prabhu greets his regular customers by name. No one knows them as well as this man with the bushy moustache does – especially not the supermarket chains.
With over 1.3 billion people, India is the second-most populous nation on earth, after China. Most people earn a living from agriculture, followed by the service sector. This South Asian country, covering most of the Indian subcontinent, is a nation of small and medium-sized businesses. Nearly 12 million grocery stores like Nagesh Prabhu’s shop dot the country. With their limited space and comparatively low inventories, these small, owner-run kirana stores are much easier to run than a big supermarket with high investment costs and stock levels.