Kaching! The sound of falling coins in a cash register or when you hit a jackpot. That is exactly what Shiv Shankar Ganesh had in mind when he decided to name his venture Kaching Software Pvt Ltd.
After all, he was promising deals and savings for his customers when they go to a restaurant or a café or a bar. He has tied up with about 350 merchants in Chennai and around 75,000 users have downloaded the app, with about 1,500 using them every day, he says.
But this was not Shiv’s first idea when he decided to drop out of college and become an entrepreneur. He wanted to set up mini radio stations that would feed purely local advertisements on FM radio station in your car. For instance, if you were driving into Nungambakkam area in Chennai, there would be deals from various merchants in that locality that would play on the radio station. Very soon Shiv realised that this would be a non-starter – he would need to obtain licences and would also have to up transmitting towers.
Instead, Shiv decided to offer deals and discounts to the thousands of people who eat out every day in Chennai. He recollects that he and his friends would go out to eat and he would bargain with the restaurant manager to give them a discount as they were quite active on social media and would be able to give a shout out to the restaurant. The restaurant managers, Shiv says, would smilingly give them a small discount.
This, says Shiv, made him realise that there were discounts to be got from restaurants and cafés if they were asked for properly. Shiv decided to pursue this as a venture, where the customers would get deals and discounts for free and Kaching would make money only from the merchants they had got on board their platform.
Tech behind the platform
Kaching, according to Shiv, is a simple and easy to use app. There is no need to scan a QR code or type out an OTP or connect to the Wi-Fi. Kaching runs on Bluetooth Low Energy, a wireless personal area network technology, and an open source version that allows indoor location-based services. Beacons using Bluetooth Low Energy can push out notifications to a user who has downloaded Kaching app whenever he or she enters a restaurant or a café or a bar that has installed the beacons provided by Kaching. All that the user has to do is to show this to the outlet’s manager to avail himself/herself of the discount or offer. “The reason we adopted this technology was that Bluetooth is going to become ubiquitous going forward,” says Shiv.
According to Shiv, Kaching is sourcing its beacons from a supplier in China and will install them in the merchant outlets that have signed up on its platform.
Initially, Shiv found it difficult to sign up merchants, because not many of them took him seriously. But once he got a large hotel and two popular American fast food brands on board, convincing other food and beverages outlets was a cinch.
Shiv says users in the 16-35 age group are his target audience. They are the ones who eat out a lot, go in groups and do not mind spending money. They are also looking for good bargains. This is also good for the restaurants and cafés. “We do about 1,000-1,500 users a day. They all go in a group and eat. When I say 1,500 are using Kaching daily, it means we are sending close to about 5,000 people to restaurants and bars in the city for free,” says Shiv.
He is confident that this number will only increase. It is estimated that about 1.5 lakh people eat out every day in Chennai and Kaching has scratched just the surface. Even tapping this base is enough for Kaching to grow its business multi-fold. “We can scale 100x within just the dining out community. All of them have smartphones, they all spend hundreds of rupees per meal. It is a great way for them to tap that audience, great way for us to help them explore new places,” says Shiv.
According to him, Kaching manages to get discounts of 10 per cent or more for its users, and other offers too – a combo meal or come as three and pay for two or spend a specified amount and get a dish free. Kaching gets its income from the merchants in a multi-tier subscription model.
Shiv says there were other companies that offered the same deals, but they failed because they spent too much on advertising and also because they were ahead of their time. In contrast, he adds, Kaching is conservative with its money. Kaching was a part of Facebook’s accelerator programme thanks to which it got some money and wisely used it to advertise itself. “A lot of developments have been conducive to us – mobile phone penetration, Android adoption, Bluetooth ubiquity. We feel we are at the right juncture to take this tech and tap into a growing audience base,” says Shiv.
Kaching also hopes to tap into other sections of those eating out, but its core focus will remain the young professionals. It also will be able to provide its merchant members with a lot of analytical data of its users. Shiv says the same app can be used for other retail segments too that have discounts and offers. According to him, this is an operations intensive business and they will need people to bring on board more merchants.
He says that Kaching is in the process of raising about ₹1 crore from some investors. It will use the money to install the beacons in merchant outlets and also to expand to Pune. Once that is done, the company will enter more cities gradually.
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