Vend-X is a service aimed to revolutionize the vending machine market in the US using disposable $30 vending machines and a simple low-cost operational model.
Project: A part of my final year thesis at IIIT, done in 2020
Project Mentor: Prof. Puneet Tandon, Mr. Aditya Chand
Duration of Project: 4 Months
My Role: Strategic design, user research, product design and service design
Vision: To disrupt the vending machine market with a disposable vending machine having a minimal cost of operation and a viable business model for the current market.
Approach: Gaining key insights into the vending machine market in the US and leveraging these to bring out innovation with product and service in order to make Vend-X a business revolution.
Global Research Strategy
Various cultural and systemic differences between the two countries pose a challenge to design research as an Indian designer remotely working to design something for the American market. These fundamental differences when realised can help designers become aware of new and global tools and deploy them to bridge this gap.
How did I bridge this gap?
1. By leveraging remote ethnography and online collaboration tools to gain qualitative insights
2. By conducting thorough primary stakeholder research as it was easier to find experts online during the pandemic
Primary Research Pipeline
1. Formulating research goals and objectives
2. Building contextual interview guides
3. Creating participant screeners and recruiting using Upwork
4. Conducting qualitative interviews on various topics throughout the project
5. Gather actionable insights on various aspects of the project
Upwork profile sorting
Expert interviews on Zoom
Key Insights from Market Research
The Vending Machine Businesses
1. There are 4.6 million vending machines in the US
2. Business operations are simple, with high margins from FMCG, people start vending machine businesses with small capital and grow over time
3. 70% of these vending machine businesses are profitable for 4-5 years and then are reported to slow down
1. No skill or training is required
2. Single person logistics
3. Adds convenience for customers
4. Easy to scale up based on leases
5. Quick revenue and rotation
6. Booming around being contactless during 'COVID'
1. Capital investment of $2,000-10,000 per machine
2. High maintenance cost over time
3. Highly prone to vandalism
4. It is difficult to ensure hygiene
5. Low revenues due to high competition
6. Saturation of locations as vending machines are a step into the real estate space
Shift in Mental Model: Value of Human Capital
Unline India, the American minimum wages for maintenance staff is very high ($20-35/ hour + Insurance). This difference makes operations such as re-stocking, maintenance, cleaning, etc. highly expensive and a major contributor for losses in the business.
Only innovation in product is inadequate to solve this problem.
A disruption in the service/ business is required.
The Solution: Product Innovation
1. The machines would be built of corrugated paper
2. Maximum cost of each unit: $100
3. Body has to be use and throw
4. The unit would comprise of a tech component and storage space
5. A low cost dispensing mechanism has to be created
Tech Component + Body
The Vend-X machines are a set of disposable, sustainable vending machines made of corrugated board that dispense products by scanning a QR code embedded within the artwork. These QR codes lead to a web application that is responsible for the display of product details and making purchases. Without and sound or hassle, consumers get their favourite products from the machine within seconds.
A simple architecture of the body is responsible for the quick and convenient setup of Vend-X machines.
At once, 100 products can be placed within the Vend-X machines in a tray, also made of corrugated paper. This tray is interchangeable and houses the hot-cut mechanism that we have developed to dispense products with minimal space, time and cost. Products would be placed in boxes that have the potential for branding for businesses and other partners.