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The great Indian baniya community, single-mindedly focused on business and keeping a close tab on profits, has embarked on a digital journey to understand their customers better and boost growth. Utilising new technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and data analytics in their businesses, they know better what the young buyers' preferences are.

Today, India's Gen-Y shop using a mix of online and offline modes where they compare prices and refer to reviews online even when they shop in an offline store. The traditional acumen, mixed with New-Age technologies, have unleashed a new breed of baniyas who are defying old wisdom and charting new courses.

"Anyone can set up and start a business with a small or a big idea or investment but without having a business sense, the knowledge of trade and the market trends, they can't survive. Baniyas are ahead in this game with additional support of family culture and community," says Anoop Mishra, one of the nation's leading social media experts. 

Indian millennials -- aged 18-35 and accounting for nearly 34 per cent of the population -- have driven e-retail industry's growth through their increasing Internet usage, says global services firm Deloitte. "Millennials' increasing usage of internet for shopping has driven growth of online retail. E-retail is expected to surge from 3 per cent of total Indian retail market in 2017 to 7 per cent by 2021," said the report.

Convenience of buying anywhere and anytime, discounts and access to products not available offline are some of the key reasons for India's Gen-Y going online -- and Baniyas know this well. Prasoon Gupta, Co-Founder and Director, Sattviko Foods, says his idea was to offer a snack that finds its origins in traditional Indian recipes but with a modern twist for young consumers.

"Right from coming up with a unique idea to differentiate ourselves from the other players, and what they deliver, Sattviko has overcome many hurdles and has thrived in its journey to where it is today," Gupta told IANS.

He has developed an AI-based technology platform called "JIGSAW" to enhance and scale-up the distribution medium. Ola is serving over one billion customers annually and is creating employment opportunity for millions through its ride-hailing platform. Ola Co-founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal who set up the firm some eight years ago believes the future of employment is micro-entrepreneurship. According to Mishra, "Unlike entrepreneurs who believe in concentrating on business administration, baniyas are hawk-like people".

"This is the secret to their ever-flourishing business," Mishra noted. Baniyas are strict with keeping their balance sheets up-to-date. They are also a closely-knit community and adhere to their clan's unwritten rules very strictly. The inner community network plays a big role, where they have enough access to trade or business knowledge, availability of funds and other resources. Almost all of them have retained the hard-nosed approach of their forefathers.

"The current army of baniyas knows by heart how their forefathers worked. It is deep down there, even if they live and study abroad and then start their business back home. It is right in their genes," said Mishra.

 - Nishant Arora 


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