Sunday, June 9, 2019

Self-Checkout or Assisted

Earlier, I wrote in my article for The Economic Times about how Self-Checkout or even an assisted one would make a cut in the Indian scenario even as Indians are embracing E-Commerce like no other and the Indian E-Commerce business is expected to cross over USD 50 Billion by 2025 by various estimates. Meanwhile, the Retail Industry in India is pegged at USD 500 Billion with just about 10% being Organised or even semi-Organised (meaning those shopkeepers who use some form of PoS for Billing & Accounting). Almost half of the semi-organised Retailers do not have an end to-end PoS solution and this is the latest trending opportunity in the realm of Retail Entrepreneurship with a number of existing players upping their ante while a whole lot of new technology is being tested and introduced by new Start-Ups. Interesting days ahead indeed.


Meanwhile, I visited the Apple Store on Orchard Road at Singapore during my recent vacation to the Country. It’s been 11 years since I travelled abroad and was yearning to see the Temple of Technology to seek the blessings of the Almighty Apple (sic). I have owned every Apple product ever made by the Company in it’s recent history, starting from the iconic iPod in 2007, iPhone (several of them!), iPad (two of them), MacBook, Apple Tv, Apple Watch and Airpods. I felt like a little kid inside Disneyland when I entered the Apple Store, that I was walking all along the counters and seeing the whole retail theatre with glee.  I wanted to interact with the staff and hence gave a request for a query on iCloud Management. I was given an appointment and was asked to wait for about 40 mins which I agreed with utter happiness so I can spend time there seeing how Apple consumers interact with the Apple Store. On the first floor was the Genius Groove – apparently the Genius Bar has now become a fledgling hub where atleast 100+ customers & staff can be seen seated together and interact on various service issues. I picked up my iPad and started browsing with the free internet provided by the Apple Store – a whopping 110 mbps even as so many of them were sharing the same internet. Finally, my turn came and I was assisted ably by Justin who clarified some basic as well as a few complicated queries on iCloud. He was extremely polite and knowledgeable and sent me back happy. 


I returned a day later to buy the new iPod which was launched on Thursday 30thMay 2019. I saw about it on their website and ended up at the store to pick it up. The staff themselves were surprised that it was ready for Sales! I placed an order on the mobile PoS which the staff had where I was allowed to browse the options, colours, etc. I placed the order and waited for 10 minutes by when another Apple Staff brought the product and handed over to his colleague. She placed my order on the same handheld PoS and my transaction was completed in less than 2 minutes. I was pretty excited doing this transaction and saw first hand how Omni-Channel Retail actually works. While I have seen similar technology being made available at a few Indian Retail Stores (Croma, For Example), the seamlessness and the convenience was fantastic from a user experience. 


There are atleast 20,000 companies, small medium or bigger who make PoS solutions including market leaders like GoFrugal, Wondersoft, Pathfinder, etc. to name a few. The solutions are priced from a one-time payment for as low as Rs. 10,000, SaaS models with recurring payments, enterprise solutions and so on. At my own Start-Up “Smiling Baby” – a chain of baby care stores, we signed up GoFrugal Technology’s eponomous “RayMedi” software which is now christened “RPoS” and have invested heavily 2 years backwith a module to manage Inventory across our multiple franchise stores including product management, adding inventory, live stock status and much more. With two running stores and two more in the pipeline, we have put the software to great use although we are yet to unlock so many hidden features including the omni-channel option where in we can rotate stocks across stores based on user requirements. Also, there is an option to connect the software with a mobile App, so Consumers can actually check which product is available at which store and accordingly, they can place orders online for a home delivery or a store pick-up. And this, for a small Start-Up like ours which is certainly not heavy on piled up cash investments. 

Omni-Channel offers a great opportunity for SME Retailers as much as the established ones. Time to make the most of it now.