What was the last product you purchased using a vending machine? A packet of chips, a bar of chocolate, or a tetra pack of juice? But, have you ever bought paan from a vending machine?
Mr. Sharad More, the founder and proprietor of Pune’s Shaukeen Paan, talks about vending paan using a Vendekin-powered smart vending machine at his shop and the challenges and the opportunities therein. Vendekin is the provider of intelligent vending solutions through contactless and touchless vending machines in India and the ecosystem required to support a successful vending business.
More from Mr. More.
Please tell us a little about your business?
I started selling paan in 1986, from a tiny setup, just a table with paan products. I was 17, had just left school and did various odd jobs like working in motor garages, before starting Shaukeen – The Complete Paan Shop in Erandwane, Pune. Even then, I had noticed that the way paan shops were run created a negative outlook for the business and its customers. I studied the market, the sentiment of the people, and once I understood the operations side of things, decided to do things a bit differently with Shaukeen. Today it is known as The Complete Paan shop. A place where people of all ages visit and families visit together to enjoy paan. This is not the usual clientele of a regular paan shop. This is because we maintain high levels of hygiene and offer a wide range of products. We currently have 10 shops spread across Mumbai, Nanded, Bauda, Kharadi-Singadh and of course Pune.
How did the idea of using contactless and touchless vending machines for Paan come up? How did you start?
I first had this idea in 2012, after seeing vending machines sell various food products. I spoke to my dear friend Anand Bham, who was into the packaging business and knew the in-and-out of packaging and electronic vending. I got him to build the first machine for me, but I wasn’t satisfied with its operative capabilities. I couldn’t understand the system well and it wasn’t suited to vend paan. Having spent some good money on my first vending experiment, I put this idea on the backburner. During this period, another friend came across a Cashless & Contactless Vending Machine outside Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale. He immediately took me there and we tried it out. That’s when I decided to put this plan into action once again, and try my hand at vending paan again.
How did Vendekin support you in this initiative and journey?
We got in touch with Vendekin, since the touchless vending machine at Chitale Bandhu was powered by Vendekin. We got great support and assistance from “Khatter sir” (Aroon Khatter, Founder, Vendekin Technologies). After multiple meetings and trial runs, with his team at Vendekin guiding us through vending operations and even suggestions about the ideal packaging of our product for the machine, we set up the first machine in just 2 months. The team at Vendekin has been extremely patient with all our questions, and even implemented our requests for several customisations, making our machine a unique one. A perfect example of a smart vending solution. And perhaps the first contactless vending machine in India selling paan! We still have discussions and exchange ideas on what other customisations can be done to the machine, to make vending paan an easier and more interesting experience for the customers.
What changes did you make to the already touchless vending machine for your product?
We created customised boxes made of food grade paper with our branding, as per the requirements of the vending machine slots. The products in this Vendekin-powered vending machine are placed in such a manner that once the order for a paan is placed, it carefully brings the paan down without any spillage. The machine currently holds 80 boxes of paan, and each box contains 2 paans. Our paans are already very popular, and with Vendekin’s intelligent vending solutions, we’re able to keep our paans fresh for up to 3 days in the vending machine.
What kind of products do you keep in this contactless vending machine?
Only paan products as of now, with several varieties and flavours. Our Chocolate Paan is a hit among customers, especially children! They love watching the entire process of touchless vending, right from scanning the QR code, making a cashless transaction on the phone and then magically seeing their favourite chocolate-flavoured paan being dispensed by the vending machine. They are fascinated by it!
What is the return on investment on the smart vending machine for Shaukeen so far?
Installation of the machine cost us around Rs.4 lakh (with taxes). In 14 months since its launch, we've sold 9400 paans from the machine. The cost of our paans range between Rs. 40 to 80, so we earned a revenue of Rs. 5,64,000. And an interesting figure we came across while studying our sales data, is that 36% of the sales, i.e. 3395 units of paans were sold during the hours when our shop was closed and the maximum unmanned sales were between 12 AM to 2 AM.
Now that the Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted and more shops now open full time, the vending machine will be mostly catering to people after the shop is closed. We're expecting a revenue anywhere in the range of Rs. 2 to 3 lakhs in FY2023.
Did this make life easier for your team? What has been their reaction to it?
My family runs the shop, and my sons have played a major role in implementing this new shift to selling paan through a touchless vending machine, perhaps the first in a paan shop in India. The team from Vendekin has trained us well, in the operations and basic maintenance of the vending machine, how to add and remove products, understanding the payment chain etc. It did excite everyone at the store, and in the initial days, we always had someone from the store ready and helping the customers understand how to operate it. Once the first few customers learnt how to operate this contactless vending machine, the rest picked up and now almost all our customers are fairly used to the process of using a touchless vending machine to purchase their paan!
What is the feedback of the customers?
The customers are absolutely delighted. I have always said this, Paan ko adab se khilaya jaata hai. (A paan is to be served with a certain respect and style). And this machine does what we at Shaukeen have been doing for 16 years. We are Pune’s favourite paan shop. Right from celebrities to the common man and woman. They have taken to this new development with excitement. The kids of course love experiencing the entire process of selecting their paan and getting it via the vending machine. Many youngsters bring their parents to show them how a smart vending machine can sell their favourite paan too.
Of course operating the machine 24X7 meant we had to be vigilant. We installed CCTV cameras and noticed that customers would come in as late as 3 AM to buy paan, patiently reading the instructions to buy their post-midnight paan.
Is the average customer ready for vending machines?
The customers are always ready! They are ready for anything new we introduce and this was one such success story. We have many young men and women working late night shifts visit the paan machine during their breaks to get a refreshing paan.
What were the challenges you came across in this journey to make vending paan a success?
It does take time for anything new to become normal. While Covid-19 slowed down regular business, the vending machine worked wonders, with people appreciating the efforts and innovation in vending paan in a contactless way. We never want to do business through any illegal means or by breaking rules. So, while the stores shut down at 10 PM, our machine stays operational all night.
Apart from that, a few customers initially had to be guided on how to use QR code Scanner or the Vendekin Mobile App, to make the purchase and payment. But the trust people put in our brand meant they were patient to learn a new technology and understand how it works.
Any other benefits of using smart vending solutions for your brand?
We haven’t really haven put any major efforts into digital promotions. However, customers who visit the shop make videos, click pictures of the various types of paans, and now the Vendekin-powered vending machine, and post them on social media. Often these become conversation-starters. A lot of people find out about us organically through these posts and then visit us.
What is the biggest benefit your customers have with regards to having a paan vending machine?
The customers are happiest with the cashless and contactless aspect of the purchase. The cold storage feature maintains the hygiene of the machine and freshness of the paan. The box packaging of the paan is another win. What surprised us is how people from as far as Delhi and Kolkata visit our shop to experience this unique Paan Vending Machine in Pune, because they saw it online or heard about it from someone.
What are your future plans in regards to vending paan?
I want to take Shaukeen Paan to all the metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bengaluru through these vending machines. My target areas are IT parks and recreational spaces with large footfalls. We also wish to sell our paans at railway stations, airports, malls, food courts across India through these contactless and touchless vending machines. Plus, we’ve noticed that our customers buy our paan for the whole family, so we now plan to introduce a box of 10 paans as a family pack.
Inspired by Sharad More’s digital vending journey? You too can get started on your own vending business through smart vending solutions powered by Vendekin. If you already own a retail brand, you can sell your products through touchless & contactless vending machines all across India and the world. To get started drop us an email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +91 9555712713