Imagine a store where you can just enter, get your groceries and other items, pack your stuff and walk out of the store without having to wait in a queue for payment. India’s first cashier-less store - Watasale opened up by a Kochi-based startup Nayasale Retail Pvt Ltd in Kochi, Kerala in 2018. You can buy any stuff in 3 simple steps: Download its app, open it and scan the unique QR code while entering the store. That’s it. You can now pick the items you need, and you can pay for via different online payment options so you don't need to wait in a long queue for billing.
The first of its kind autonomous Indian store, Watasale is now operating in Kochi, Kerala. The retail store is the first of its kind by Nayasale Retail Pvt. Ltd., a pet project of five friends Richu Jose, Rajesh Malamal, Subash S., Dileep Jacob and Vinci Matthews. They struggled with managing finances as the project is bootstrapped. This has been the After years of deliberate planning and trial runs in a garage they finally succeeded to launch the store.
Subhash S, CEO & CTO, Watasale, revealed that they were inspired to attempt this because of the media attention received by Amazon Go. Subhash stated,
“We started working on the technology in the start of 2015. It was after the announcement by Amazon that they were going to bring Amazon Go similar to our technology, we were reinstated about our correct direction.”
“We use a combination of touch sensors, AI and computer vision—pretty much the same technology as in a self-driven car,” explains Richu Jose, COO of Watasale. The payment for the items purchased will be automatically debited from their Watasale prepaid wallet or card. No cashiers, no queues, no checkouts, no scanning. “After finishing shopping customer can just walk out of the gate,” says Rajesh Malamal, chief marketing officer of Nayasale.
The store attempts to offer the customers with a checkout-free experience. Customers at Watasale need to download the app and scan the QR Code generated to enter the store. They have to keep adding items into a bag and exit when they are done.
Right now, the items aren’t reflected immediately on the app and the bill is generated a few minutes after you walk out of the door, but we are working on smoothing it out,” says Rajesh Malamal.
It took the team of Watasale almost 3 years of exhaustive brainstorming and countless trial sessions Then, they got their algorithms right after which they started focusing on building up physical infrastructure and skeletal framework of the retail store. Their biggest challenge was to form the core technical team and the right manpower who have expertise on advanced stages of artificial intelligence.
They follow a similar model to Jeff Bezos’s Amazon Go, cashier-free grocery store currently operating in the US. Amazon Go is already functioning in three locations in Seattle and is expected to head to NewYork soon. Even Jack Ma’s Alibaba has showcased the Tao Cafe concept in China to be on par with Amazon.
Rajesh Malamal emphasized that while the concept is similar; Watasale uses its own technology and has created it with their proprietary software. And believe that their systems are more economical and scalable as compared to Amazon Go. Rajesh Malamal claims that they have received positive feedback from the customers which has elated the interests of investors both national and international venture capitalists.