Google Nest Cam can OWN the grocery universe

Hitanshu Gandhi    Updated
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Grocery reordering is a chore. A cloud connected smart camera from Google with a robust e-commerce backend from BigBasket, Amazon or Flipkart would be the perfect solution to OWN the non-produce grocery shopping market. You simply make sure you start your preparations in the section under the cam – the cam calculates what is being used and how much in order to pre-populate your shopping cart for one-click / automated checkouts.

Walmart Reliance Tesco should be scared – VERY scared!


“You will love this” said Aviral while forwarding me the URL of Bottomless a cloud connected coffee scale startup. The premise is simple – you buy their scale and subscribe to their extensive range of coffee and never have to think about reordering again. The FREE scale tracks your usage and the next bag of freshly roasted coffee turns up like magic!


What if Google gave you a free connected camera like the Wyze Cam. All you had to do was cook under that camera and your groceries would be auto-ordered. Google lens back-end would be able to:

  1. Seamlessly measure how much of a certain produce is consumed
    1. Unlike the Amazon India app – Google lens is SUPERFAST and accurate
    2. Dimensions are an easy problem to solve – you can:
      • Ask the customers to put their phone under the camera. Since Amazon / Google already know MY mobile device (worst case check BLE signal) – they can use it to match / scale dimensions
      • Give customers a sticker of known dimensions to stick under the camera
  2. Pre-populate your cart for re-order
  3. Despatch at pre-planned intervals

Why would users want it:

  • The bulk of “grocery shopping expeditions” are boring chores with long queues in checkout. Customers enjoy going out, not buying groceries!
    • The experiential part is relevant for a smaller subset – produce, bakery items and suchlike.
    • This product frees up customer time for indulging themselves while shopping produce instead of rushing through the store with a never ending shopping list
  • Standard items such as oils, sugar etc are trust based items. Once you like them, you wll reorder them, as opposed to condiments where they may be much more variety seeking behavior.

Why would retailers want it:

  • Moat: Retaining existing customers from poaching by Amazon / Google / .. who would now own the customer and thus the lion’s share of margin
  • Enhance utilization / turnover of existing warehouses
  • Far less pilferage / labor cost per transaction
  • Ability to schedule deliveries ensuring economic service

Questions to which I do not know the answer

  1. Suitability for Non-kitchen grocery items such as diapers, shaving blades:
    1. Re-ordering may require simply clicking a photo in the app or placing them under the camera.
    2. This sounds fiddly no doubt but better than the alternatives, no?
  2. Why does such a service not exist from brick & mortar supermarkets?
    1. Incumbent inertia? Tesco or Walmart have the tech to use their extensive customer loyalty card purchase data juxtaposed with your credit card or address info to helpfully prompt and send a cart full of stuff to your house.
  3. Who is best placed to launch this? No one today
    1. Google already has the tech:
      1. The very image recognition (Lens) which is far ahead of Amazon
      2. Pre-existing tie up with almost all e-grocery service providers globally
    2. Amazon does NOT have the tech:
      1. Their Android app is mind-numbingly amateurish when compared with the near-instant magic of Google Lens (see comparison below)
      2. Their logistics engine is brilliant and truly the BEST
    3. The Chinese giants? I am unaware & a quick Google didnt help. I would love to hear your thoughts to me at firstname DOT lastname at gmail 🙂
Quick comparison showing the inaccuracy of Amazon App vs Google even after taking 10x time

Questions to which I have a preliminary answer

  • Why this? Consumers can order in the Amazon pantry even today, right?
    • This service is supremely frictionless compared to the app experience today
    • The app is frankly fiddly for small items
    • The search esp in Amazon is terrible – sometimes you just want the app to pick up the exact same product instead of giving you “search results”. That only increases the time taken to compile an order
  • My real kitchen is too chaotic – this will not work for me? Well yes, and no!
    • The idea is NOT to be precise – we are NOT solving for pilferage
    • We are merely auto-creating the refill order for a customer to a decent level of accuracy
    • Will the tech today get to 70% or 90%? I don’t know
    • But will it be GOOD enough for customers? Hell yeah!
  • What about vending machines such as BBInstant?
    • Those are completely different category and customer mindset:
      • Vending machines are basically for “on the go” snacks or Very Fast moving packaged goods (think cigarettes, fried snacks, biscuits, colas) placed in the path of the busy consumer (transit areas, office blocks, schools etc)
      • This system can potentially re-order your entire kitchen / household non-produce grocery
  • What about Alexa ordering groceries for you?
    • Alexa is only capable of voice interactions. That has two shortcomings:
      • It is not “automatic” but incumbent on the user to re-order
      • Explaining a long list to Alexa is PAINFULLY SLOW due to the nature of “conversation” vs the seamless vision here
  • What about fresh produce / vegetables?
    • Certainly doable through such a system, however, this category has unique attributes:
      • Deep seasonality
      • Need for variety, even with the same category. e.g Today Dussehri mangoes vs Hamam mangoes
      • Far more experiential – “ah these strawberries look so fresh!”
      • India specific issues:
        • Change in quality from week to week – “These strawberries don’t look as nice as last week. let me skip it today!”
        • Extremely variable quality except stores like Kovai Pazhamudir Nilayam