Inspiration can arrive at the most unexpected of moments. Having spent 20 minutes queuing to buy a single can of Coke from a supermarket chain, Mustafa Khanwala was convinced there had to be a better way to pay in store. Within months he’d launched MishiPay, an app that allows shoppers to scan and pay for items without the need for tills or self-service check-outs. Five years on, MishiPay could be set to change the face of global retail.
Its rise has been phenomenal. Today, MishiPay is in use in 14 countries with more than 30 leading retail brands. It promises to not only cut queueing times, but reduce operational costs for retailers and raise spending levels. One retailer reports MishiPay users returned to its stores 33% more often than non-users and spent an average of 14% more. These are eye-catching figures for retailers facing a squeeze on staff costs and consumer spending.
“We see that, once you’ve used the MishiPay app three times, it becomes your primary purchasing channel,” says Khanwala, Founder and CEO of the UK-based start-up. “You tend not to use the checkout queue. Some of our customers are now reporting 38% of sales through self-scanning. That is revolutionary.”
The challenge for MishiPay is to keep pace with this generational growth opportunity. To maintain a leadership position in this emerging market it needs its systems to scale, while being able to continue to refine its service to retailers. The app needs to be available, glitch-free, 24/7.
“We currently have more than 30 million items listed, with more than 7,500 promotion codes, all of which need to be integrated in real-time,” Khanwala explains. “Once the transaction is complete, we need to transfer the funds directly to the retail, update the inventory, reconcile the finance…it can be hugely complex. For a growing business we don’t have the resources to engineer all of this.”
For MishiPay, the big picture is to marry the information within the retailer’s inventory with the unique shopping habits of the individual shopper. It could then enable real-time promotions as the shopper moves around the store. These promotions could be linked, via APIs, to third parties, creating a dynamic shopping experience unique to the app user.
This is primarily a database challenge.
“We need to expose this live database to many more parties,” says Khanwala. “It would not make sense for it to be a relational database. We know retailers are working towards an open-API concept.”
MongoDB Atlas establishes a multi-cloud database service, providing MishiPay with the scale, resilience and data privacy foundations to underpin its rapid growth ambitions. MishiPay can continue its international expansion in the knowledge that data can be held locally.
“We’d been aware of the usefulness of MongoDB for many years – it’s something our engineers are familiar with,” says Khanwala. “The scale and flexibility of Atlas were key for us. Every retailer seems to have a different approach to data, and we need a database that can accommodate and integrate a broad range. This was a decision based on long-term value.”
MishiPay is already planning to deepen what is seen as a strategic engagement. The plan is to move from Elasticsearch To Atlas Search in 2023, and it is exploring the use of MongoDB Atlas Device Sync and MongoDB Realm Database to address instore connectivity dips.
“Atlas Search is something we’ve had in our pipeline for some time,” Khanwala explains. “We want to bring as much as possible under one roof, for the sake of consistency, cost and simplified management. We want to decouple from Elasticsearch.”
Mustafa Khanwala, Founder and CEO, MishiPay
The engagement immediately relieves concerns around scale. MishiPay has doubled recurring revenues over the last year and will see 200,000+ transactions in a month by the end of December 2022. It is adding new retail clients, and new countries each month. From a transactional point of view, MongoDB Atlas ensures the real-time processing of inventory and pricing is updated without a hitch.
It also reduces the strain on the inhouse team to manage integrations. Atlas enables MishiPay to absorb multiple data formats, freeing resources to focus on app refinement and new business wins. MishiPay aims to have new retail customers onboarded within two weeks.
“System uptime and availability are essential metrics in terms of recruiting new business,” Khanwala points out. “We feel we have the basics in place. The greater impact will be down the line.”
The vision, he continues, is to build a new retail ecosystem. Self-scanning addresses a pain point in physical stores. This is only the beginning. Khanwala sees MishiPay’s future in promoting a new form of retail. For example, consumers may be able to photograph an item anywhere in the world, and the MishiPay app will link to a local retailer. Commuters could beat the queues by clicking and collecting their morning coffee. Retailers will feed off this new level of data to create new, localized, personalized promotions. Inventory lists, detailing whether a search item is available in a shopper’s size, can be pushed to the app users. MishiPay wants to unite retailers, payment platforms and promoters, and then add an analytics layer.
“We need MongoDB’s expertise in helping build that ecosystem,” says Khanwala . “But one thing’s for sure, we’re not going back to old ways of retailing.”