Chinese Startups Smart Vending Machine:
What is Quzhi?
Quzhi (趣智) is an intelligent vending machine designed to provide the user with a faster and more convenient purchasing experience. Taking the concept of standard vending machines to the IoT level, Quzhi machines are connected to the internet and allow for easy mobile payment, mapping of nearby stations, and live update coverage of available stock. Currently targeted at university campuses, the Quzhi vending machines are entirely student operated and encourage teamwork, managerial skills, and leadership amongst the university students. With a name in Chinese that translates to ‘Fun Tech’, Quzhi machines are truly a revolutionary new approach towards the ordinary dispensing appliances of the past.
What does a Quzhi Vending Machine look like?
The current Quzhi machines are still in development. The future machines will have a clean, sleek and modern design that will accentuate the machine’s sophisticated digital interface.
The upper screen is used for advertising, the left screen for purchasing, and the right screen is for purchasing information.
How does it work?
The Quzhi machines are intuitive and easy to use.
How is it operated?
Each campus with Quzhi vending machines has a managerial team composed of roughly 5 operators who alternate in managing the machines on a rotating schedule. The responsibilities of the management team include restocking the machines, determining the products sold based on consumer demand, and determining the prices of the items themselves.
How many people use Quzhi?
Currently, there are 50 Quzhi machines dispersed throughout two of China’s universities- Peking University (10) and Guangzhou University (40). The machines are strategically found mainly on the first floor of busy classroom areas that are bustling with student activity. Within only several short months since their official introduction, it is estimated that roughly 20,000 people already use the machines across the two campuses. As word of mouth spreads and Quzhi continues to grow into other campuses, the vending machines have the potential to eventually reach an audience of approximately 50 million people who currently spend time on university grounds in China. Eventually, the company’s long term aims are to branch out of universities and expand into the corporate world as well.
How do the Quzhi Vending Machines Fare to Competitors?
Direct Competitors: Standard vending machines, Ubox (友宝)– Smart Vending Machine
Indirect Competitors: On campus university supermarkets
Accessibility: With the university scene buzzing daily with thousands of students, teachers and guests who seek quick food solutions during break, it is a natural target area for vending machine locations. As a student-run initiative, Quzhi’s main advantage over Ubox or the external vendor’s standard vending machines is its accessibility to university heads and student unions. Outside vendors encounter far more bureaucratic challenges to enter the isolated university kingdoms, as they have limited access to the influential university board members who determine what businesses are allowed on campus. Quzhi’s down-up approach, from the students themselves to the university authority figures, gives the company a significant advantage in gaining necessary market access to the university hotpot.
Stock: Quzhi vending machines are stocked with goods ranging from food, snacks, beverages and other small miscellaneous items. Its intelligent digital operation system sets it apart from other standard machines in that the operators can receive live updates and statistical data regarding product demand, expiration dates, sold out stock, and more. Furthermore, the products for Quzhi machines are provided by the student-founders themselves and come from a variety of retailers, unlike standard machines that typically work with only one main supplier. This allows for a broader range of stock that can be purchased at cheaper prices.
Prices: As Quzhi machines are stocked from a variety of places, the goods can be purchased from cheaper suppliers and hence be sold at more competitive prices. The student operators have free unobligated reign and authority over the price of the goods, and so they may determine prices that are cheaper than those of on-campus supermarkets.
Payment Method: Whereas standard coin-operated vending machines allow only cash payments, Quzhi’s platform allows for cash payments as well as internet or mobile payments through Wechat Wallet or Alipay.
Service: Quzhi’s digital platform provides the management team with an always updated account of the day’s sales and condition of merchandise. As such, the machines can be quickly resupplied to ensure an always relevant stock of fresh and in-demand goods. Furthermore, whereas standard vending machine companies manage their machines through impersonal partnerships, Quzhi’s student management team has a far higher personal incentive to work together and provide the best service possible. The local student teams essentially rent the machines themselves at a monthly price, and thus in order to maximize their share of the profit they must personally ensure a positive purchasing experience.
Meet the team!
Chen Zhengxun (Nicholas): Zhengxun is the founder of Quzhi. An entrepreneur at heart, Zhengxun’s inspiration for the idea arose from personal need when, as a student at PKU, he found there to be a severe lack of vending machines on campus. Paired with his motivation to encourage increased group cooperation in universities and a natural penchant for functionalizing daily tasks, Chen developed Quzhi in October 2015 and thus the concept of a smart vending machine was born.
For more information:
Wechat ID: quzhitech