Innovation in India’s cafés

Publié le 9 Mai 2012

Starbucks has competition. Café Coffee Day, an Indian chain with 1,300 locations, is on its heels. The coffee is different, but just as good. Its advantage will come from the way it uses tech, which is a bit ironic when you recall that the American chain is originally from Seattle, not far from Microsoft.

Heading the project is Rajeev Suri, former head of marketing at a Bangalore IT services giant. Wanting to no longer lead the employee’s life, he invested, alongside the head of in a venture called LiquidKrystal, which Suri hopes will forever change cafes. The project rests on three tech trends: touchscreens, social networks and what Suri calls “mobile plus local” – what I like to call “mobiquity.”

“That’s exactly it,” he says.

The project is an example of how innovation is always a case of putting already existing elements together in new ways. The only real problem the group had when launching is the most well-known platform, Microsoft’s Surface, was way too expensive at $24,000.

But there were ways to reduce the costs. Industrial production is becoming increasingly modular, so creators no longer need to be fabricators. Like a recipe for a meal, all they need to is do the shopping and put the ingredients together.

Suri’s first attempt was a $12,000 table without a multitouch screen. The second attempt led to an $800 table with a multi-touch screen that’s “almost as good as the Surface. It’s strong enough to launch, while the company was working on the third iteration, which will cost less and perform better.

Beginning in June, they’ll be putting about 3 or 4 tables in cafes per month, in a campaign called WINT, What an Interesting Table. Customers can use them to talk to neighbors, flirt with people at the next table and to connect to the rest of the world.

The most ambitious thing about the project is, potentially, the business model.

Suri makes a distinction between “linear business models, where growth depends on physical resources,” and “non-liners models, where the market is virtual.”” In a traditional cafe, revenue is based on the number of customers, and therefore the number of tables. But WINTs transforms tables and consumers into media, monetizing them by charging users for web use.

“A million customers visit Coffee Day every day,” Suri says. “But I can have hundreds of thousands of transactions per table if I can create the same level of engagement as games.” This from both on-site media consumption and e-commerce. Suri plans on running Bollywoood movies and transmedia series on WINTs, as well.

You can be skeptical, but Suri can offer his tables at a low price, see if the market likes them, and spread his model across the globe while betting on huge revenue growth. Like the chain’s motto says, “A lot can happen over coffee.”


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