Foreign direct investment in retail is expected to spell doom for the neighbourhood kirana stores and many of them are looking at various methods to retain their daily customers. Companies, too, are looking to tap the extensive network of five crore small retail establishments in the country to distribute their products and services.

Last week, 500 kirana stores in Delhi became part of Saral Money, an initiative by international payment gateway operator Visa. The service is linked to an individual's Aadhar number, a 12-digit unique individual identification number.

Saral is the joint effort of Visa and five banks ( State Bank of India, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and Indian Overseas Bank) built on the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) platform with Visa as the payment network provider.

According to the scheme, the enrolled retailers will be equipped with a micro ATM device, which would issue Saral Money cards to customers on the basis of their Aadhar number. Customers can use these cards to withdraw money, remit payments, receive government disbursements and so on.

"Small stores are very open to the idea, as they see this to be a potential revenue stream and also footfalls," said the group country manager, India and South Asia of Visa, Uttam Nayak.

Visa estimates 600 million people to have access to Saral cards in the next 20 months. "For this, around 30 lakh outlets should have access to micro ATMs in the next three to five years," Nayak said. While Visa would get a commission for each swipe, the ratio of revenue share would vary from the bank and merchant establishment. Charges for new account opening are fixed at Rs 50 now, while fee for a transaction is Rs 5.

On their part, traders say that with margins in business shrinking (5%-7%) in case of a daily needs store, mom and pop stores are not averse to the idea of supplementing their main income with new offerings.

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