A long queue at the hypermarket can discourage even the strong-hearted from completing their shopping list. Yet, monthly shopping isn’t something you can dispense with. Now, a retail tech-commerce startup from Bangalore, called Perpule, is revolutionizing Indian shopping by enabling self-checkouts and self-ordering solutions for offline stores, outlets, malls, and cafeterias.
Now a customer can discover products, scan barcodes, avail all the offers and pricing information for the products, and checkout and pay in the app itself. The Tech Panda spoke to Abhinav Pathak, the CEO of Perpule, who says the team at Perpule aims to eradicate queues of all kinds.
How it started
While working as an analyst at Goldman Sachs in 2015, Pathak, along with his co-founder Saketh BSV, observed how the long queues on Black Friday were not only a bad experience for shoppers but also a massive loss of revenue for retailers. After coming back to India, he found the exact same scenario at all the top retailers, like Big Bazaar and SPAR. Determined to solve this problem, Pathak, along with his co-founders, Saketh BSV and Yogesh Ghaturle, did a small pilot for a retailer in Bangalore.
“When that worked well, we thought, why not try and see if we can take it to scale,” he says.
How it works
Perpule is a customer-facing app, for which, the team partners with the top retailers in India, and are now looking to expand to other cities as well. On the app, the customer can see the list of retailers who partner with Perpule, such as HyperCITY, More, Metro, Big Bazaar, and Centro. They can select the store they are physically present in.
For example, the customer selects More, because they are physically present inside the store. Then they go around shopping, picking up any item from the shelves. Modern retail ensures that every item will have a barcode. The customer scans the barcode using their mobile camera. The app then integrates with More and informs the customer of the price, available promotions, offers, and discounts. If the customer wishes to buy the item, they simply add it to their cart. They then go on repeating the whole process for all the items that they are buying.
“Once you are done, you have all the items in your mobile cart, you pay in the app, you get an invoice, you go out of the store. You don’t have to stand in the billing queue,” Pathak explains.
Perpule also offers a next-generation platform independent PoS for stores and outlets to further improve their efficiency and drive amalgamation of retail. Currently live with brands like HyperCITY, More, SPAR, Pantaloons, Big Bazaar, Spencers, Nilgiris, Heritage, KFC, Chaipoint, Pizzahut, etc. across India, Perpule is like a superhero rescuing the tired shopper from villainous long lines.
Considering queue-less shopping is a long-awaited dream of every shopper, you would think it would be easy to build a business in it. However, Pathak says the market was not that easy to crack.
“It is very tough to build a consumer company, where you have to partner with large enterprises. We somehow managed to get the right team and the right customer base,” he says.
Just walking out of a store with a bunch of items from a hypermarket; seems like security would be an issue. Pathak explains that that is taken care of as well. Perpule has a system where the customer is asked to keep the items on a machine, which, on the basis of weight and computer vision, identifies to ensure that there is no pilferage. The Perpule app is created from technology based on computer science, computer vision, payment ecosystem, and a bit of machine learning.
With a few hundred thousand daily active customers on the app, the Perpule team processes quite a lot of transactions every day. However, when asked if he considers himself successful, the young CEO says, “It is a long journey, and I am barely getting started.”
Perpule has recently started cafeteria solutions as well, to lessen the time taken for serving food to customers waiting in queues. For the future, they plan to expand throughout the country. The startup has raised investment from notable investors like KStart (Kalaari Capital initiative), Venture Highway, and Raghunandan G of TaxiForSure.
“After Bangalore, we want to scale the top ten cities in India, get to a million daily customers on the app, and eradicate all possible types of queues beyond the retail store as well. We would like to go on expanding to more and more use cases where people have to waste time standing in queues,” he says.
Advice for startups
Pathak says building the right team and implementing and running it the right way is immensely important for all early-phase companies.
“Building the right team and making sure that the team executes in the right way is very important. The whole mission the company is built on should trickle down to every single individual contributor in the company,” he says.
Other important factors he stresses on are the timing of launching a product and keeping in mind the big picture at all times.
“More than 50% of products are the ones which just happened to be there at the right place at the right time. So, as an entrepreneur, as a founder, the biggest responsibility is to figure out the right way of doing things at the right time. When things are not working letting it go and pivoting in trying out other alternatives is better than just sitting upon the old idea and getting emotionally attached to the product. Look at the larger picture,” he says.