My 82-year old father was holding out a newspaper insert of a food app that was promising a free samosa and lassi combo from a famous halwai, close by.
“Appa this is a mobile app that delivers food from eateries in the vicinity.”
“That’s OK but where’s the telephone number that I can call to get this free offer?” Dad asked as he continued to look minutely at the leaflet for the elusive number
I explained as patiently as I could, “Appa, there’s no number, you have to download the app on your smartphone and order through it only to avail of this offer.”
Appa had refused to keep a smartphone. The screen was too tiny for him to read articles and the continuous stream of jokes on watsapp had left him exasperated.
“So you’re telling me I can’t avail of this offer simply because I don’t have a smartphone? I can’t believe this. In India how many people have smartphones? The majority have simple phones like mine. So we are unwanted is it? Wait let me call the halwai, he’ll give me this directly.”
Of course that didn’t happen and a much chagrined Appa said in wonderment, “He says the offer is not from him but from the app people who pay him full price! That would cost a lot! Why do they want to feed wealthy people for free and not give this to the poor people without smartphones?”
Time I broke the truth to him, I thought and told him gently, “Appa, this company is giving its potential audience an introductory offer to get them on the app and then make them use it frequently, thereby making it a habit and acquiring customers for life.”
“But this must be a long drawn affair and how will the company make money? Pay salaries in the interim?”
“Yes Appa, there’s no time frame to this. The money they get from investors: PE firms, VC’s seed fund and angel investors who pay them millions of dollars.”
“I don’t get it. These investors pay delivery companies to make huge losses but won’t give that money to existing restaurants and hotel chains? They’re banking on the fact that people will get lazier? Not want better food?”
“I’m not sure about what their plans are Appa, but yes they believe these companies are the future. By the way, should I order you a samosa and lassi?”
“Forget it! I asked for this because it was free. Otherwise who wants to eat that halwai’s stale samosa?”