An Amazon.com Inc. employee scans in to shop at the Amazon Go store in Seattle, Washington, U.S. (Photographer: Mike Kane/Bloomberg)

Startup Street: India May Have Found Its Answer To Amazon Go In Watasale

This week on Startup Street, we have a retail store that has taken a leaf from Amazon Go. Food curation and delivery website Zomato is cracking the whip and deleting a number of restaurants off its application for not adhering to the rules laid out by India’s food safety regulator. A less-than-a-year-old technology startup is fighting the fake products market and Walmart’s technology arm has acquired the entire team of engineers from a Bengaluru-based startup.

Here’s what went on:

This Autonomous Retail Store Everyone’s Talking About

Walk in. Browse. Pick. Leave.

That’s how easy it is to shop at Watasale, India’s first cashier-less fully autonomous retail store in Kochi, Kerala, which has taken a leaf out of Jeff Bezos’s Amazon Go concept.

The artificial intelligence-powered retail store is the first of its kind by Nayasale Retail Pvt. Ltd., a bootstrapped startup based out of the southern state.

The store boasts of not having any cashiers or salespersons and attempts to offer a “checkout-free” experience to the buyer. “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,” Rajesh Malamal, chief marketing officer of Nayasale told BloombergQuint. “After finishing shopping customer can just walk out of the gate.”

Source: Watasale
Source: Watasale

The idea of having unmanned stores is not new with Jeff Bezos’ superstore Amazon Inc. having already tinkered with it in the U.S. Amazon Go is already up and running in three locations in Seattle and is expected to head to New York soon. Even Jack Ma’s Alibaba has showcased the Tao Cafe concept in China as he tries to emulate Amazon to try and change the face of traditional brick-and-mortar retail.

Malamal says that while the core concept is the same Watasale uses its own technology. “We have created the same experience with our own propriety software.”

We believe that our systems are more economical and scalable in comparison to Amazon’s solution.
Rajesh Malamal, Chief Marketing Officer, Nayasale Retail Pvt. Ltd.

He said that the idea for this was conceived three years ago. But implementation wasn’t easy. The biggest challenge they faced was finding engineers who were well versed in new-age technologies such as artificial intelligence and deep learning. “The technologies involved are so nascent . We had to train our own core team in these technologies and banked on them to deliver for us but they have performed above and beyond our expectations to come out successfully.”

Everything inside the Watasale store is conceived and developed in-house by our own team
Rajesh Malamal, Chief Marketing Officer, Nayasale Retail Pvt. Ltd.

Managing finances was tough too, Malamal said, since the whole project had been funded by themselves.

The bet seems to have paid off. Malamal said that since the launch, Watasale has recieved a lot of positive feedback from customers. In fact, he claims that through last week the store has already recieved more footfall than the average daily footfall of the whole mall.

That’s stoked investor interest too. “There is a lot of interest from national and international venture capitalists,” Malamal said. “We are in talks with them, nothing is confirmed yet, but we are looking for some major investors.”

Zomato Cracks The Whip

Food-tech startup Zomato is looking to punish its restaurant partners that have failed to maintain hygiene standards.

“Starting today, we are de-listing hundreds of restaurants from our food ordering platform for not being compliant to Food Safety and Standards Authority of India regulations,” Zomato Chief Executive Officer Deepinder Goyal wrote in a blog post. “These restaurants were not able to furnish an FSSAI license to Zomato.”

In July, FSSAI had asked online food delivery platforms like Zomato, Swiggy, UberEats and Foodpanda to debar the restaurants which did not have a licence or a registration. It had given them a deadline till July 31. The regulator then issued a statement in August saying that nearly 40 percent of the restaurants on such platforms failed to meet the deadline for obtaining licence.

Restaurants which have a high rating on Zomato, or those which have high order volumes will be given until the end of this month to furnish their licenses, Goyal wrote. He added that the de-listing of the restaurants by Zomato is in collaboration with FSSAI.

These measures will certainly help strengthen the ecosystem as it will filter out parties that aren’t keen on prioritizing the users’ interest. Nobody wants to consume food prepared in an unkempt kitchen. Following this de-listing drive, we are expecting an uptick in hygiene standards.
Deepinder Goyal, CEO, Zomato

The move comes nearly a year after Zomato itself introduced Food Hygiene Ratings where they worked with third party auditors to conduct surprise food hygiene audits at participating restaurants. “And if your favourite restaurant doesn’t have a food hygiene rating on Zomato in a few months, it should give you something to think about,” Goyal had wrote back then.

This Startup Is Fighting The $1.6 Trillion Counterfeit Market

It all started with watching a documentary on the counterfeit market. That's when Nitin Gupta, chief executive officer and co-founder of NeuroTags, realised the severity of the problem. “Not only were businesses loosing out on sales, but it's also posing a huge risk for the health and well being of people in the drug industry,” he said.

Months later, in early 2017, Gupta and his team came up with NeuroTags - a dual tagging system that allows buyers to scan products before and after the purchase to ensure their authenticity. A year later, the startup was born and has already acquired eight clients - both local and global - with Syska one of its largest clients.

Here's how the technology works. User can scan the open tag before buying and get a good estimation of genuineness of the product and check for any red flags. And scanning the protected tag after purchase provides complete genuineness information. Both the tags are mathematically coupled with each other, alerting users and producers of either one of tags raises a red flag.

The counterfeit industry is worth at least $1.6 trillion today, Gupta said in an interview with BloombergQuint.

In less than a year of its exsistance, NeuroTags has bagged eight clients from various industries such as electricals and electronics, clothing, automobiles, water purifiers, healthcare devices, footwear, etc. "We are also in talks with many international brands and in the final phase of starting pilots with some of them," he said.

Our plan is to grow four to five times by the end of 2018. In terms of total tags to be deployed we plan to reach somewhere between 20-30 million.
Nitin Gupta, founder and CEO, NeuroTags

Walmart Just Went Talent Shopping In India

The tech-wing of Walmart which codes developments and solutions for a better shopping experience with the U.S. retail giant has acquired the entire engineering team of Bengaluru-based startup Appsfly.

“With their core developer skills and powerful leadership abilities, we believe that this talented team from Appsfly, including co-founder Karthik Thirumalasetti, will be an asset to our technology capabilities,” said WalmartLabs in a statement.

This comes months after Walmart's $16-billion acquisition of India's largest e-commerce website Flipkart, after a long and intense fight with Amazon of one of the largest consumer markets in the world. The team of technicals will now help the U.S. giant develop and deploy better suited for the market.

“As a key market of growth and expansion, this is an important step we have taken in India,” said WalmartLab India’s Head and vice president of technology.

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