Tech by VICE

This Giant Vending Machine Gives Cupcakes to Indians Who 'Like' the Government

It might only benefit the company that made it. But hey, cupcakes.

by Jason Koebler
Sep 24 2014, 5:25pm

Silicon Valley, it turns out, isn't the only place with young entrepreneurs who think they can solve most of society's problems with an app or an otherwise disruptive idea. Case in point: Mumbai's massive cupcake vending machine, a device that hands out sweets to those who "like" the government.

The eTreat campaign, launched in Maharashtra state, where Mumbai is located, is designed to "spread the awareness of e-governance initiatives." To do that, residents can head to the vending machine, and text, tweet, like, or enter their Indian identification number to get a cupcake. By doing so, they've signed up for periodic updates about voting, goings-on, and new electronic services from the state government. 

The initiative was paid for by the state government but was carried out by Simple Labs, an Indian company that seems to have this whole start-up thing down (the music in that video above is classic Silicon Valley). 

A sampling of some of the "cards" handed out with the cupcakes. Screengrab: eTreat

"There are 16 lockers in the system," Monaal Jain, who runs Simple Labs, told me. "Each locker is connected to an electromechnical lock, which cannot be opened manually. Each locker has a cupcake and a card [detailing information about] an initiative of Government of Maharashtra. The lockers can only opened via [these] digital mediums."

"Due to the lack of technology to connect in the country, people are unaware of [available] Web 2.0 initiatives," he added.

Getting the word out about these services is surely a laudable goal, but if connectivity is the problem, it seems that by forcing people to use Facebook or Twitter, the state might be leaving out impoverished people who are likely to need government services the most.

In the end, rather than getting the word out about ways the government can help, the project might just serve to get the word out about the tech companies that are actually doing this sort of thing. Jain said the project has led to contracts and interest from music festivals and other big brands in India who want these social media-connected vending machines. So far, roughly 9,000 people have signed up, he said.

"It's tough to really prove the importance of this service's design here, but slowly we are breaking through and we're hopeful to launch new services in a few months for the public sector," Jain said. "We are interested in doing work that creates impact and we are trying to connect humans, technology, and creativity."

Spoken just like a true disruptor.