STARTUP OF THE WEEK - WATASALE
Legal Name: Watasale
Headquarters: Kochi, Kerala, India
Founding Date: 2018
Founder: Richu Jose, Rajesh Malamal, Subash S, Dileep Jacob and Vinci Matthews
CEO: Subhash Sasidharakurup
Imagine entering into a store, bagging your products and skipping out. No queues, no checkout counters— that's specifically what Watasale, the new autonomous store, promises. The first store of its kind in India is operated from Gold Souk mall in Kochi. They follow a comparable model as Amazon Go, the world's first autonomous store. It was the favourite project of five friends from the tech and retail worlds. It took Richu Jose, Rajesh Malamal, Subash S, Dileep Jacob and Vinci Matthews three years of brainstorming and trial runs in a garage to finally launch the store. The store doesn’t need any salespeople or cashiers at the counters. Instead, Watasale offers shoppers a unique ‘checkout-free experience with the help of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, sensor fusion and computer vision.
“We use a combination of AI, touch sensors and computer vision—pretty much the same technology as in a self-driven car,” explains Richu Jose, COO of Watasale. The payment for the goods purchased will be automatically debited from their Watasale prepaid wallet or card. There will be no cashiers, no queues, no checkouts, no scanning. “After finishing their shopping customer can just walk out of the gate,” says Rajesh Malamal, chief marketing officer of Nayasale.
At Watasale Store shoppers have to download the company’s iOS app or Android app depending on the user before entering the store. By scanning generated on the app will help them get pass the gate of the store. At present, they are having two racks on either side of the store selling item like soft drinks, biscuits and chocolates to soap and talcum powder. The shoppers can purchase whatever they like and walk out of the store. 5 minutes of walking out of the store gate the detailed bill will arrive on the shopper’s phone and they can easily make payment through mobile wallets, debit and credit.
The Watasale team eventually wants to come up with an in-house wallet or credit system which the customers can use to pay for their purchases. According to Rajesh Malamal (Chief Marketing officer) "The company is also looking to create there wallet in which customers and add and it will auto-debited once they walk out from the store right now its open customers can pay later using mobile wallets and debit/credit card and they are also going to add feature of auto-debit from credit card".
One of the major challenges that the startup faced initially was finding the right human resources to work in cutting-edge technology. The company created a core team of technology professionals and trained them in computation and the deep learning processes. “Now, They did a beautiful job and finished it up for us, exceeding all expectations,” Jose says proudly.
Watasale micro-stores are Planning for the next step. Watasale ‘stores next door’ will be deployed in apartment complexes, housing areas, workplaces and transit areas. These work with upgraded vending machines, but on the same cashier-less principle, where the customer can scan the QR code and pick up items that they need. These micro-stores can be placed in any location, and the customers can use service at any time of the day for groceries, daily essentials, food items and the like.
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