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Shortlisted | Aren’t they Grocery Stores too?

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A dusky aroma of Pulses and Grains A dark dingy shop in a shoddy room With a weighing scale and desktop, An operator who seldom wants his job... The essay is a part of shortlisted entries for the essay writing contest, February 2024.
Shortlisted | Aren’t they Grocery Stores too? 1

A dusky aroma of Pulses and Grains
A dark dingy shop in a shoddy room
With a weighing scale and desktop,
An operator who seldom wants his job
Dust, dead Stock and loads of packaging material
A long queue of peasants
Standing frail in the hot sun
By now you might have guessed the place-
Yes! It is the Ration Shop.

The Ration Shop has a lot of positives to it. The goods that it sells are affordable. These centres are easily accessible and it is a well-regulated distribution system that plays an important role in the demand supply dynamics and reaches out to the common man. Yet, it is not efficient enough. Why? – I would attribute it to the presentation of goods and services.

The common picturisation of a grocery store in the present day would be of a well-planned, sophisticated, air conditioned and well-kept store that hooks the customers to the shopping experience and boosts consumerism. We have had plenty of case studies on how design influences the psyche of the buyer and we are in an age where brands and marketing drive our choices.

With that being reality, it is common to see that only those from the lower economic strata of the society still depend on ration shops. Most of the people who are entitled to benefits from the Ration Card, yet belong to the affordable strata deliberately choose buying from markets instead. People feel that the quality of goods is highly compromised in the ration shop.

Even the best quality goods need maintenance and suitable infrastructure to support it. Better packaging and presentation increase the consumability of the product as well as preserves quality. A massive investment is needed to modernise the county’s Public Distribution System.

While government policies focus on flashy infrastructural development like roads, bridges, etc., don’t you think that these ration shops are an important aspect that faces neglect? Can giving a facelift to the Ration Shops ensure that these shops continue to play a vital role in providing affordable goods to the common man while also meeting contemporary expectations?

Comments from Mentors

“A lot could have done with this topic but it was handled in a fairly lack-lustre manner by the writer.” – Arpita Das, Mentor, Urban Imprints

“The ration shop is an interesting and neglected aspect of urban life – starting on this premise, which I consider original the author does not make an effort to engage with or understand the issues of the public distribution system – the treatment is superficial, and is worrisome with the kind of window dressing approach.” – Peeyush Sekhsaria, Mentor, Urban Imprints


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