This innovation has altered the shopping experience for mothers with cranky kids in tow. The upshot is that kids love it too! Picture this all-too-familiar scenario: harried woman enters shopping mall with 4-year-old. Harried mom tries to keep an eye on 4-year-old, who decides to explore every aisle in the mall, while mom tries to pick out items on her grocery list. Or, harried mom runs through grocery list as she plays tug-of-war with wailing 4-year-old, who is determined to break free. Oh dear!
To rescue parents from this nightmarish experience, Mumbai-based Kidz-On-Wheelz introduced kid carts-cum-shopping carts at various malls in the country, so that parents can keep an eye on their kids while shopping.
Fashioned like a kiddie’s car and attached to a shopping cart, this innovation is made of plastic and comes in bright colours to keep the young ‘uns hooked. While mom pushes the cart while browsing through the mall, she keeps her tot quite literally under her nose – and the kid gets a comfortable, free ride too. Kidz-On-Wheelz is the brainchild of mother-of-two Nirupam Hiremath, who launched the company in 2004 with a seed capital of Rs 7 lakh from her personal savings. She provides this unique push-cart service at malls and also sells them to individuals who want to start this service.
“The idea of starting this service in India popped into my head after I used a similar one in Australia when my kids were small. So when the mall culture took root in Mumbai in 2004, I decided to take this idea forward and began approaching the managements of various malls,” reveals Hiremath. It’s been a long road since then and, today, Kidz-On-Wheelz has 60 carts in four malls in Mumbai, including Inorbit, R-City, Infinity, and Inorbit in Navi Mumbai.
Perseverance Is The Key
“Of course it wasn’t easy!” laughs Hiremath, recalling those early days. But she had a trump card – she was a mother and knew exactly what she was selling. “Initially, people did not accept the idea at all. Moreover, I had been a homemaker for 10 years and so I was not taken seriously. They would think, ‘Here’s a housewife who thinks she can do something big’.” But, to use a cliché, persistence paid off and, finally, Kidz-On-Wheelz began to roll.
Hiremath first launched the push-cart service at Inorbit in Malad, Mumbai, with eight carts in February 2005. “I surfed the Internet to find a manufacturer. There were just a few in the US and New Zealand, and I finally sourced them from the US. The carts are expensive and transportation also costs a lot as the carts are large and bulky,” she says. “Earlier, I would sit at the counter to gauge the response to the carts and then upgrade if required. Now I have three employees in each centre.”
The company’s revenue model includes renting and direct sale of the push-carts. Each cart is rented for Rs 110 per hour while some have been sold to agencies in Pune, Bangalore and Delhi, where they are used under different brand names. “I started selling the carts in 2010 but have been able to sell only 20 carts with a profit margin of less than 5 per cent,” says Hiremath. She says, 90 per cent of revenue comes from rentals and 10 per cent comes from selling the carts. As far as rentals are concerned, 60 per cent of is earned at weekends.
Kidz-On-Wheelz is growing at the rate of 18 per cent year on year. Its current turnover is Rs 40 lakh.
Hiremath says she has endured a lot via trial-and-error, thanks to overenthusiastic clients and for want of proper judgment. “We have had to shut a lot of outlets due to unfortunate reasons. An enlightened mall management is a must. For instance, malls which sell their shops instead of leasing them are not very well-managed and are not suited to using our carts. Neither are small malls, which do not need them,” explains Hiremath.
Also, not all types of malls attract the kind of clientele who would spend on hiring this service. “There have been errors of judgment but now I know what type of layout lends itself to using our push-carts. So, for instance, the service doesn’t work in open-concept malls like High Street Phoenix in Mumbai, where we had to shut down operations as the layout of the mall was not suited to the use of these carts. And, oh yes, the mall must also have a good elevator as the carts cannot be transported on escalators.”
It’s no secret that people tend to shop more when they’re relaxed, not pressed for time and the overall experience is pleasant. Taking a cue from this, the Kidz-On-Wheelz website claims that parents using kid carts shop longer and more. So, if keeping shoppers hooked is the objective of every mall, these handy push-carts are leveraging basic shopping psychology!
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