It’s not a vending machine; it’s definitely not a supermarket. But when a supermarket is brought down to a vending machine, what do you call it? Meet the makers of KWIK24, India’s first app-operated smart store that works like a supermarket but from a vending machine in Bengaluru. The ‘desi’ version of Amazon Go has just landed here. Excerpts from the interview with KWIK24 co-founder Samir Duggal.
Tell us what KWIK24 is all about?
KWIK24 is an IoT based app, connected to vending machine that lets you pick groceries at the touch of a button from your office or home, and even helps you grab a quick meal, all working from your smartphone. Customers don’t have to stand in long queues to pay bills or hunt for coins to check out. The smart sensors inside the machine will push out orders and if a customer changes his mind, it will read the weight of the product and understand what they have picked up, and charge them accordingly. A customer can place an order for groceries from their phone, walk up to the vending machine, pick up the items and leave. They will be charged through digital payments for whatever they have purchased.
What inspired the concept behind building this machine?
Well, the whole inspiration for the smart store came to our co-founder Neeraj one day when he was complaining about how his aged mother had to walk very far to buy their daily groceries. He was thinking how buying essentials like veggies and fruits could be made easier and hence the idea of convenience retail transpired. He designed the machine, visited factories to ensure the machine was manufactured the way we wanted it and worked on building the app. Though we started off as branding ourselves vending machine makers, we realized it’s more than that and rebranded ourselves as smart store. For the last two years now, we have KWIK24 smart store, which works 24/7, supplying groceries and now even meals.
Do you think India is ready for such tech-enabled shopping when kirana stores are still running in profit?
When we thought about this concept and started building it, we asked ourselves if the market was open for such convenience retail and if buyers would come. But two years into the business, we have realized most of our customers are now becoming loyal customers due to the ease of buying from KWIK24. Buying from our micro store is a habit change and we are seeing that most people are open to this concept.
The shelf life of food products is limited. How do you manage the perishable goods?
KWIK24 is called a smart store for a variety of reasons. We are smart with the data, consumer needs, supply chain and the go-site. As of now, we are managing the supply chain and of course when the shelf life of a product is over, the machine automatically locks the food and it is not dispersed to the consumer. We clear the products accordingly.
How many transactions happen at KWIK24 smart stores?
We have 56 machines in various parts of the city and we have 25 deployment centres. We are mostly present in corporate offices, MNC firms, apartment complexes and BPO centres. From each machine, about 150-200 transactions happen everyday.
What were the challenges involved while building KWIK24?
Since we are highly dependent on mobile technology to run our business, it is a challenge when there are network issues. However, we are working on finding solution to this problem too.
What are your expansion plans?
We are aiming to install 1,000 machines across India and interestingly we are getting calls from tier II cities as well to install the machines. However, for another two or three years, our focus will remain on expanding in metro cities. In the long run, we may consider bigger store format expansion. Understanding the consumer and reaching their mind takes time and we will expand accordingly.