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Out of Order! How to fix the issue of overcrowding at small shops.

Efficient management of customers at small local stores.

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All hell broke loose when the COVID-19 started spreading like wildfire. While the whole world came to a standstill, the small local shops in India were facing an unprecedented challenge. To strictly follow the lockdown, the Government had urged all the businesses to shut down, including supermarkets and malls. When this happened, the tides seem to have turned, and these local shops started playing a crucial role in society. Most people now resort to these shops, leaving it packed like sardines. As a solution to this, the shopkeepers have marked spots every two meters apart with chalk, but social distancing still seems to be out of the question. 

These small retail stores are mostly family-run. They are ubiquitous, with at least one store for every 30 families in India. They have a close connection with the people of the community, often giving regular customers a discount. They mostly cater to the essential needs of the customers. 

The lockdown has had a detrimental effect on these businesses. "It's like entering a war-zone every single day," said a shopkeeper in a CNBC reporter. From my research and interview, I've learned that it has affected them in three ways- the supply, demand, and the restrictions from the Government. Financially, the liquidity of cash has reduced, which has hindered the credit system on which they used to procure goods from the suppliers. Hindrance in transportation has also taken a toll on the supply of goods. The demand has increased, with long queues outside the shop, thereby causing chaos. Social distancing is far fetched, but the Government has resorted to taking strict actions if they find it violated. The shops have also been ordered by the Government to close by the evening. 

The Government has taken initiatives to rectify the supply by relieving certain restrictions on the transportation of goods, along with financial measures. Yet, more has to be done on the demand side. Efficient management of customers is still a challenge that needs to be tackled.

What is the need are you focusing on?

With a tight constraint of space and growing demand, there is a dire need for the shops to adapt some ways to handle the customers efficiently without breaking the norm of social distancing. 

Which type of submission are you sharing?

  • Identifying a gap that needs to be addressed

Describe the business pivot or adaptation in 3-4 sentences.

For an organised, quick and seamless flow of the customers, the number of customers and the time they spend at a shop should be reduced. My solution is an app that shows the real-time crowd at the shops. The app also shows the commodities available so that the user can order it, and go and collect it when the crowd reduces. It helps them reduce the time spent inside a shop. With a disruption in the flow of supply, there are high chances that the customers may not find the product they require. When the product is out of stock, the app suggests a few alternatives and substitutes available. By catering to these needs of the customer, the app is empowering them to follow social distancing, thereby greatly benefiting the shopkeepers.

Do you plan to implement this solution?

  • Maybe-with additional support

Describe the impact that this solution will create in the world.

Impact on the business - This intervention will help them efficiently manage the flow of customers in a tight space while still adhering to the safety norms. - During peak hours, the app can help reduce the workload of the shopkeepers. - There was scepticism around the shopkeepers to digitize their business fearing a loss of customers and other such disruptions in the business. The app will help them digitize without obliterating their power to do business. It will help them continue to maintain a close connection with the community. Impact on the community - The app reduces the time the customers spent inside the shop. It helps them quickly buy the goods without standing in a crowd or a queue. - The app shows the density of the crowd, the stock available and alternatives to the goods, thereby helping the people make an informed decision on their visit to the shop. - It instils a sense of social responsibility and safety among the people.

What is your profession?

Design Student

Where are you located (country)?


Where are you located (region)?

  • Southern Asia

What industry is your business/company in?

  • Student

What kind of stakeholders and partnerships are needed to pursue this solution?

  • Funding- Grants
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Government
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Civil Society Groups
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Grassroots/Community Groups

Do you need help building partnerships and finding partners?

  • Yes

If Yes to the above, please share 1-2 sentences describing the specific help you desire.

I require help with the development of the app and technology.

What do you think are the main barriers to implementing this solution?

People has to be convinced to use this app. Once they learn the benefits of the app, they can quickly adapt to it.

Are you aware of any open source efforts, hackathons or other collaborative efforts related to your solution? Are you participating in these efforts?


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