Meal vouchers globally have been a thriving industry since early 80s as a tool of motivation as well as simplifying the employee's taxation burden. Being a primate form of prepaid instruments, the vouchers offer liberty to the consumers to shop their monthly groceries without paying no cash, at a grocer or store that accepts the vouchers. Till now there were two limitations in the process that dissuaded mass adoption - one, the vouchers owing to their form are prone to risks that can impede their usability. And two, the risk of the vouchers being disallowed at shops or establishments owing to lack of tie-ups by the issuer company. Not so long ago, while shopping at a departmental store, one would face a long line owing to someone counting and recounting their meal coupons. Usually a booklet with multiple denominations was inconvenient while transacting; but owing to their paper avatar, it always carried a risk of being misplaced or soiled or simply left away in some corner of the home or office. The question was how do you simplify an already simplified process? Unless someone started asking how does one make it more friendly as a process to its constituents.
The meal voucher industry in India albeit growing fast, is dominated by two global companies -Edenred (Ticket Restaurant) and Sodexo. In the past two years, various start-ups have sensed this growing opportunity and have joined the fray.
However, the global footprints coupled with the access to resources make the seemingly 6 decade old companies much agile and efficient to change. This is what happened at Edenred. Sensing the change for a need to simplify the transaction experience, the company stated its digital transformation. In doing so, 3 years back the company introduced a meal card replacing age old vouchers. This fully tax compliant meal card just made the transactions not only smoother at the counters (at the swipe of the card) but more importantly, led to faster on-boarding process for new employees with client Companies and easier refill process. For establishments too it was a win win proposition - with their lines at the counters moving faster as well as the inconvenience of keeping and depositing vouchers becoming a thing of the past.
The meal card got the company thinking to not only offer a digital product but create a digital ecosystem to empower it's beneficiaries. Hence a mobile app was launched. The app not only allows the beneficiary to access the transaction details, card balances but more importantly, offers a list of shops that accept Ticket Meal Cards, duly mapped as per beneficiary's present GPS location.
This simple yet thoughtful innovation catapulted the company's enabled it to convert a large proportion of its physical voucher based clients into digital meal card based. Today the company has over 5,00,000 meal card holders in the country and growing. What's exciting is that public sector companies are too adopting the product and going cashless thereby giving a fitting tribute to PM's vision of Digital India as well as boosting the morale of its employees - by simplifying a once taxing process.
The author, Johann Vaucanson is Managing Director of Edenred India.