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India’s First Automated Cashier-Free Store Opens in Kochi

Watasale retail store in Kochi, Kerala

Watasale, created by a group of Indian technology professionals, has ushered in a new roadmap for India’s retail companies by offering a complete autonomous cashier-free shopping experience for customers. Shoppers can walk into the store with their mobile phone, take a product and just walk away without having to interact with a billing accountant.

Offering a no-fuss, no cashier, no scanning, no waiting-in-line service, Watasale, which was launched at Kochi in Kerala last week, does not employ any salesperson or cashier. The retail store uses artificial intelligence, and computer vision and sensor technology to allow customers to buy a range of products by just scanning the QR code generated through the Watasale app to enter the shop. The bill amount is automatically debited from their prepaid e-wallet account.

The Indian startup, Nayasale Retail Pvt. Ltd., has now received offers of a strategic partnership and funding from Japan’s Mitsui & Co Ltd, the Indian Express reported.

“Back in 2015, it was a time when machine learning and artificial intelligence was really coming out. We knew any segments can be disrupted using this technology. If you look at the market structure, the retail segment was still following the age-old technologies. We found it as a ripe ground for innovation and disruptive technologies,” COO Richu Jose told the publication. Jose came up with the app along with four other friends with technology and engineering backgrounds.

The idea of a cashless store was first conceived by the team in 2015 after which it took them three years to work with AI for hassle-free shopping.

Jeff Bezos’s Amazon Go concept of unmanned stores is already running at three locations at Seattle in the United States, and is expected to reach New York soon, according to BloombergQuint. Jack Ma’s Alibaba has also tried to adopt the concept at Tao Cafe in China, the report added.

Watasale uses the same core concept but has devised its own technology. “We have created the same experience with our own propriety software,” Rajesh Malamal, Chief Marketing Officer, Nayasale Retail, was quoted as saying in the report. “We believe that our systems are more economical and scalable in comparison to Amazon’s solution,” he added.