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Vending machines – convenience, speed to drive the category

10-October-2005
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Vending machines – convenience, speed to drive the category

With work hours stretching to 24x7, tea and beverage consumption has undergone change, too. No longer is drinking the regular cuppa a morning affair, it is very likely that drowsy folks in call centers may call for it at all odd hours. This has created an increase in the demand for vending machines owing to the multiple benefits of convenience and speed. One, therefore, is not surprised to see vending machines for various things mushrooming all around.

Said Jagdeep Kapoor, Chairman & Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consultants Pvt Ltd, “Three factors are currently boosting the vending machines category – convenience, self-service and high availability.”

Explaining the growth of vending machines, an HLL spokesperson said, “As people spend more and more time outside their homes, there is an urgent need to dispense products with the assurance of brands, the promise of a standardised product delivery, the excitement of a wide range and the convenience of getting the desired drink in a hassle free manner – this is where vending fits in.”

Vending machines find applications at places like offices, colleges, cinema halls, leisure parks, beaches apart from trains and airlines.

With around 25,000 installations, HLL is one of the largest players in the vending machine market. In the Indian market, pioneering efforts were taken by Lipton and Bru to make the vending concept familiar to the Indian market.

“Products such as chocolates, cigarettes, wafers, snacks can use the vending machine format for customers,” Kapoor said.

When asked about the apprehensions owing to difference in taste, Kapoor pointed out, “People observe a balance between convenience and taste. If they get what they need really fast, a little compromise in taste seems okay to them.”

The HLL spokesperson divulged how technology had made a positive difference, “Today, with vastly improved technologies like smart card machines developed by HLL, customers can actually control their budgets on beverages. Also, HLL has developed a vast range of products, including flavoured coffee and tea, cappuccinos, cold coffee, ice tea, diet drinks, etc, that have transformed the beverage experience, and this has created a positive impact in terms of taste in the minds of consumers.”

While vending machines have marked their presence at various public places, it still remains unclear whether they will find place in households. “Vending machines in India can find a place in households, too, if they dispense either a novel product that cannot be made by home-makers or if they dispense a time consuming intermediary that still allows the home-maker to take the credit for the final product herself,” the HLL spokesperson pointed out.

The future seems bright for vending machines. The basic point is that people are willing to experiment and are ready to pay a higher price, provided the product delivers value. That is the basis for the explosive growth in the out-of-home business.

Agreeing with this, the HLL spokesperson said, “The strength of vending machines lies in the brand assurance and hygienic product delivery that companies like HLL provide, and this is further strengthened through a comprehensive quality check on the machines that ensures product safety at all times.”

Vending offers products for all price points – from a basic cup of tea at a very competitive price vis-a-vis manually prepared tea to top end products like ice tea and cold coffee that provide extremely good consumer value.

Samsika’s Kapoor said, “I think vending machines will grow, but they will act as a supplementary aid and cannot replace the traditional ways of delivery and distribution. Among the two categories of vending machines (automatic and manually operated), automatic is more preferred owing to convenience factor.”

Coke has introduced vending machines, too, for its Georgia brand of beverages. It is true that vending machines in a way also help in differentiating and branding. With free time at hand waning continuously, and instant service and speed of delivery becoming more and more critical, we are bound to see the vending machines market grow into a big one.

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