Entrepreneurs / Philadelphia / Startups

Prayas Analytics: Penn startup crunches in-store data for brick & mortar retailers

The bootstrapped startup has landed its first major customer, a Fortune 200 retailer with more than 1,500 store locations.

Prayas Analytics was founded by (left to right) Yash Kothari and Pranshu Maheshwari (shown here with early intern Pranay Sharma). (Photo by Juliana Reyes)
Full disclosure: has office space inside First Round Capital's headquarters, where Prayas Analytics also has office space.
If the founders behind Prayas Analytics have their way, you might never have to wait in line at a grocery store again. (Trader Joe’s, we’re looking at you.)

The bootstrapped startup, founded by a pair of Penn seniors, analyzes store security footage to help make brick and mortar retailers more efficient. Their analytics, delivered via a web dashboard, aim to answer questions like, how should a store staff its front desk? How can it better manage lines? Do customers prefer self-service stations over cashiers? The founders also promise that there’s nothing creepy going on like face detection, just counting customers and analyzing how they move.

One Fortune 200 retailer has already caught on. After a one-month pilot in which Prayas Analytics analyzed footage from three stores, the retailer, which the startup said they could not name, is upping that to roughly 50 stores, said 21-year-old cofounder Yash Kothari. The retailer has more than 1,500 stores, he said. The pilot is paid, though Kothari declined to elaborate on Prayas’ pricing structure since the startup is still in an early phase.

prayas analytics

Prayas Analytics works out of First Round Capital’s University City office, but sometimes, they go outside to enjoy this parklet. (Photo by Juliana Reyes)

A connection through a family friend helped them get their foot in the door with that first major customer. Other than that, Kothari and cofounder Pranshu Maheshwari, 20, said they did a lot of research and came prepared to their meetings with execs.

While they have a few small customers in Philly, like Hubbub Coffee, Prayas plans to focus on larger retailers, Kothari said. Their competitors include companies like New York City-based Nomi and San Francisco-based Euclid Analytics.

The three-person team (the cofounders and one intern) is working out of First Round Capital’s University City headquarters and living at the Radian, a high rise where other Penn startups live and work. The founders, who both grew up in India, plan to finish school (“We weren’t going to drop out,” Maheshwari said. “We’re so close to finishing.”) and after that, it’s not clear where they’ll set up shop.

One draw of Philadelphia is the Penn community, which the team said has been really helpful in helping to build their business. They named professors like:

  • Kartik Hosanagar, the entrepreneur and Monetate and RJMetrics angel investor
  • Jeffrey Babin, who teaches engineering entrepreneurship
  • Peter Fader, a statistics professor who runs Wharton’s Customer Analytics Initiative
Companies: Prayas Analytics

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