Amazon’s steady march to roll out Amazon Go-powered instant checkout stores in the US and UK is well documented. What’s lesser known is that the company is moving to expand the technology in India, another very important market for its business.
TechCrunch reports that Amazon has secretly found the founder of a cashierless store startup in southern India, hired at least 100 people to bolster its efforts, and hired more to bolster its team. I learned that
Hiring includes support and software engineers, embedded systems specialists, computer vision scientists, program managers, and currently has a LinkedIn profile showing that they are working on Amazon Go in the country. A current Amazon recruitment post indicates that the company will be bringing in more people to join the effort.
Amazon has set up Just Walk Out Technology Operations Units in cities such as Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai to serve a wide range of Amazon Go stores. These operations are underpinned by what appears to be a quiet acquisition by the Seattle-based company of Nayasale Retail, the parent company of a startup called Watasale. Watasale is a Kerala-based Kochi start-up that claims to be India’s first Amazon Go-style cashierless store, launching in the South Indian state in January 2018.
Wataseru employees joined Amazon, but it’s not entirely clear whether Amazon “acquired” or “acquired” the business. His website at Watasale is still working, but many links (such as links to apps on Google Play and explanations of how the technology actually works) seem to be no longer active. .
The site points out various technologies that were built around the idea of automated checkout. Note that this startup has developed technology for running “microstores”. This is a vending machine that works using a smartphone and his QR code and can be placed in any store.
It also leverages cameras and computer vision and “sensor fusion,” to understand shopper behavior, and big data analytics and deep learning to gain insights into consumer behavior, according to the site. I was also working on the implementation of the entire store. Looking from the traditional shopping landscape aims to build a more complete picture of the increasingly complex (if not impossible) buying patterns.
In both scenarios, Watasale’s technology allows shoppers to select items and have them automatically charged and paid via prepaid wallets. All of this is handled by Watasale, no cashier or physical checkout process required.
Wataseru seems to have been working on more technology, such as a robotic delivery service. According to the company’s site, automated delivery was a “first-in-class fully autonomous online delivery concept” in which orders from Watasare stores were delivered to requested nearby locations by robots.
“We are using a combination of touch sensors, AI and computer vision, which is much the same technology as self-driving cars,” Richu Jose, then COO of Watasale, told Indian publication StartupTalky. The startup, which he actually started working on the tech in 2015, before Amazon Go launched, essentially confirmed their hunch that the field was worth pursuing, and e.g. It seemed to give credit to the commerce giants.
“We started working on this technology in early 2015,” Watasale CEO and CTO Subhash Sasidharakurup said in the same interview. “What they were trying to do was after the announcement by Amazon. [launch] Amazon Go, like our technology, shows us getting back on the right track. ”
By January 2020, Jose, Sasidharakurup, and another Watasale director, Subhash Shanoop Sivadas, all joined Amazon, according to their LinkedIn profiles. Two other directors of the US-based startup, Dileep Elipe Jacob and Vinci George Mathews, stepped down from their boards in December 2021, according to documents filed with India’s regulator, the Registrar of Companies. .
The directors of Amazon and Watasale were asked to comment on what Amazon has purchased here, but on January 31, 2022, under section 248, Nayasale Retail asked the Registrar of Companies to remove its name from the official records. requested to be removed. (2) As per the Companies Act 2013 filing. The same filings seem to indicate that the company itself was bootstrapped.
A source told TechCrunch that employees at the startup were offered the option to join Amazon and work with the team building the technology behind the Amazon Go store. It’s not clear if it’s to build technology for existing Go market stores, or for India. Also, the timing of the launch in the latter case is not clear.
Introduced in beta in 2016, Amazon Go first launched in Seattle. The company later expanded its partially automated stores to other parts of the United States, including Chicago, San Francisco, New York and London. In 2020, we began selling our cashierless store technology to other retailers.
Amazon has pulled back from some of its brick-and-mortar retail strategies, but appears to be focusing more on stores built around more cutting-edge cashierless technology. , has two Starbucks Pickups and an Amazon Go store that launched last November.
Opening a brick-and-mortar store is a logical extension of Amazon’s larger strategy, which has committed more than $6.5 billion to grow its presence in India.
While e-commerce is definitely on the rise in the tech-savvy and mobile-friendly nation, brick-and-mortar retail is still huge business. IBEF, citing Payoneer data, estimates that e-commerce will account for 4% of his retail sales of both food and non-food products in 2020, and that figure will rise to just 8% by 2025. I’m here.
This leaves a lot on the table of physical commerce. But it’s a long gamble for the company. A report last month by investment firm Sanford C. Bernstein said Amazon’s spending on growth in India has made the prospects of its local unit profitable “elusive.”
Amazon also faces stiff competition from Walmart-owned Flipkart and Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Retail. Reliance Retail has recently expanded, beating out an attempt by a US company to acquire Future Retail, his second largest retail chain in India.
But Bernstein estimates that Amazon is working hard to increase its presence in the country, and by 2025 its e-commerce spending is expected to double to over $130 billion.
Besides partnering with neighborhood stores, Amazon has also acquired stakes in domestic physical retail chains in recent years.
In 2018, Amazon and private equity firm Samara Capital entered the country’s offline retail scene with the acquisition of Aditya Birla Group’s food and grocery retail chain More. The US corporate investment arm also bought his 5% stake in department store chain Shoppers His Stop in 2017 (PDF). It’s not clear, though, whether either move helped Amazon reach consumers who spend most of their money in brick-and-mortar stores.
Ankur Bisen, senior partner and head of retail, consumer goods, food and services at consulting firm Technopak, told TechCrunch how India’s ecosystem will evolve socially, politically and policy-wise. , said it would determine many of the decisions Amazon makes.
He said his estimate was a little brighter than IBEF’s, with 85% of the country’s retail sector still in traditional retail. So far, nothing has impacted the sustainability of local neighborhood stores in the country, he added.