Founded in 2020 by Gokul Cholaghar, QWK positions itself not just as a super app but also as a convenience app and aims to take on the likes of TataNeu
QWK is backed by angel investors such as Sujayath Ali and Navaneetha Krishnan (cofounders, Shopup), Ankur Singla (founder, Tapzo) and Jasminder Singh Gulati (cofounder, NowFloats)
The app, which is in the pilot stage, currently offers food, grocery and medicine delivery services, with UPI transfers and bill payments under development
The term ‘super app’ was coined to describe China’s WeChat. Apart from being a messenger app, WeChat also has payments, ecommerce, and many other features, making it virtually indispensable for the 1.2 Bn people that use it.
The scale achieved by WeChat prompted other tech giants to design their super apps, including Meta and Amazon globally and several startups and conglomerates such as Tata and Reliance in India.
However, several challenges, including poor UI, multiple bugs, and other technological hurdles, have seen India’s super apps fail to deliver on the promise so far.
Chennai-based startup QWK is silently working to occupy this vacant super app throne in the country. Founded in 2020 by Gokul Cholaghar, QWK positions itself not just as a super app but also as a convenience app.
Still in pilot in Chennai, the app has been working in stealth mode and according to Cholaghar, its full-scale launch is near.
The startup is backed by angel investors such as Sujayath Ali and Navaneetha Krishnan (cofounders of Shopup), Ankur Singla (founder of Tapzo) and Jasminder Singh Gulati (cofounder of NowFloats). It has raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding.
Built on the foundations of consumer retention, cross-selling across verticals, and positive unit economics, QWK claims to have a better UI experience and a wide product range to foster a habit of using the app among its users.
Everything At One Place: How QWK Works?
“For me, the problem was a no-brainer,” said Cholaghar, adding that the motivation behind building QWK was to have a better, faster way to access day-to-day services.
Talking about the existing super apps, the founder said, “The conventional super apps that we are accustomed to are an app of apps. When you integrate multiple apps and call it a super app, you have very little control.”
Integrating multiple apps and calling it a super app means that the said app would not have control over the catalogue, the products listed, the pricing of the said products and the operations of the various other apps integrated, he added.
“If something goes wrong, we are always depending on a third party,” Cholaghar said, adding that this leads to a poor customer experience and poor unit economics from a business perspective.
Talking about the philosophy behind building QWK, the founder said, “Building one vertical is hard; here we are trying to build 10. We asked: how can we build this while trying to be asset-light? We were very particular about owning two major touchpoints. One is the product touchpoint, where the customer gets the touch and feel of the app. The final touchpoint is the delivery touchpoint.”
He said that the important difference between QWK and other super apps is that QWK will own the catalogue, product and listing experience and delivery, maintaining complete control over all aspects.
Explaining QWK’s business model, Cholaghar said that the startup was focused on unit economics and average revenue per user (ARPU). “We optimise for (positive) unit economics on the ARPU level. We don’t look at the order unit; we look at ARPU,” he said.
Features & Revenue Model
To remain asset-light, QWK will not own the dark stores that supply groceries and medicines. For now, the startup aims to partner with big department stores, supermarkets, and medicine stores to act as dark stores. According to Cholaghar, the model would allow these partner stores to open a second revenue stream.
Talking more about the technology aspect of the app and highlighting the difference between QWK and other super apps, Cholaghar said, “In our model, we go catalogue-first. There is no option to choose between apps or anything. We just own the category.”
The app currently offers food delivery, grocery and medicine delivery services, with UPI transfer and bill payments under development. The team at QWK is working on enabling UPI-based bill payments across segments, along with peer-to-peer payments.
One of the most intuitive aspects of the app is a single-point checkout. If customers want to order food and groceries, they can view and pay for all the products on a single checkout page, saving time and effort.
Cholaghar explained that while the users can place orders for all the products together, the products are shipped from different locations. However, the orders would be delivered to the user in one go.
The startup has integration with restaurant management software PetPooja to enable smooth onboarding for restaurants.
“Our pitch to them (restaurants) is very simple – our commission base is less than half of what they are paying to the existing market players, and our payment cycle is better. We pay twice a week while others pay once a week,” said Cholaghar.
On the payments front, the super app has built a buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) model, which provides customers with a credit limit as soon as they sign up with the app. Users can pay for groceries, food, bills and other payments from the credit limit.
“We are trying to build UPI on steroids. We allow customers to pay other UPI users using their credit limit. Money doesn’t get credited to their bank accounts but to their credit limits,” he said, explaining the app’s payments feature.
The founder said QWK earns revenue by charging commissions from the partner stores. On groceries, the startup charges 12%, while it charges 15% for food delivery and 18% commission for medicines. “On average, we are talking about 15% (commission), across categories,” added Cholaghar.
Plans For The Future
While QWK aims to stay asset-light, it is likely to reach an inflexion point in the future when the order volume would dictate having its dark stores to maintain control. Responding to this, Cholaghar said that QWK would cross the bridge when it comes to it.
“Today, for our GTM (go-to-market) it is not required, but if it is required in the interest of the customer experience, we will for sure do it. For now, our model makes a lot more sense given our size,” said the founder.
The startup is currently conducting the pilot in a small area in Chennai close to QWK’s headquarters, as it looks to work out the kinks ahead of the launch.
“We will be scaling pan-Chennai within the next 3-6 months, that’s our plan as of now. During the same time frame we will also be raising our next funding,” said Cholaghar. QWK would come out of stealth mode around mid-2023, the founder added.
The startup is also looking to do a pilot with the government’s ecommerce initiative, Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), in Chennai in the coming months. It will look to participate in the pilot as a buyer app when ONDC goes live in Chennai.
QWK positions itself as an app which gives users the features of 10 apps in one place. Besides, there is a possibility of it adding more verticals in the future. As such, India’s super app scape is likely to get another competitor soon.