Zomato Feedback 2.0

Zomato, the India grown restaurant listing site that has now gone big-time international has asked for feedback again. Here's my shot at it.

The Good:
The new design that was launched to keep up with international standards is beautiful. Less clutter and yet as much useful. The things that are new and I like most are:

1.Tips for a restaurant - Take a look at this restaurant. The tips mentioned for the restaurant are so perfect and you don't even need to read all reviews to understand the best that the place has to offer.

2. Reviews Sorting: Allowing the users to sort based on reviews on the date, rating and credibility makes the reviews actually useful for users. It's no longer about going through multiple reviews trying to find the latest/trustable ones.

3. Social Recommendations - Restaurants that have been rated high by my friends have been shown as recommendation from my friends. I like the transposition of high rating to recommended. Going beyond the number and putting a stamp of approval. This is a very useful feature for influencing user's decisions.

4. Management response on reviews: This restaurant's reviews have reply from the management of the restaurant. Not only does it help to know both sides of the story but adds a constructive layer of feedback for the ecosystem they are thriving on.

5. The New Mobile App - The new app is has some very useful UI changes. Most importantly the maps interface. The earlier maps in footer was kind of cluttering the page. A different tab for the maps is a welcome change. The filter and sorting interface is also little more easier to use.

What I Love: Easter-eggs and communication. 
They are so good at communicating and putting hidden messages everywhere. Here are some examples.

1. Zomato's font face is named "ZomatoIsHiring".

2. Their twitter bio states - "less than 5% promo tweets" - does a lot good when other brands are flooding your timeline with self promos. 

3. Facebook updates: Their cartoonish updates facebook are really something to look forward. Engaging and worth sharing. It's just not another promo in the time line. 

4. Taking a stand: The Gurgaon pub fiasco made the Zomato team respond and the CEO looked into it directly. That says a lot about a company that is in the business of telling the good from the bad. 

The Bad:
1. Auto suggest on search - High time they get a list of locations, restaurants and cuisines in the auto suggest of the search. Typing the whole query is just too old world.

2. Best menu items at a place - As parts of the Tips, they should dig out data of best menu items to try from user reviews. Zomato must be having enough data to tell me a must try item on the menu.

3. Personalized recommendation - This is extension of the social recommendation may be. Zomato knows what kind of restaurants I have been looking at in the past few months including my budget, neighborhood, drink/no drinks preference, veg/non-veg preference. Yet, the recommendation on the app is just too random. Can't they give me a list of 5 restaurants I could choose from? And get atleast 3 of those 5 restaurants good enough for me check out the menu.

4. Time based rating - The restaurants rating are aggregate over a lifetime, what would really help to know is the rating over the last 30 days / 90 days / lifetime. Every time the staff of a restaurant changes, there is a change is food and service. The ratings should reflect that change.

Good to add
Part of "The bad" but these things are more of an added feature I would like to see over time that would make the application even more useful.

1. Cuisine Listing - Cuisine filter has too broad categories now. "North Indian" is just too many differnet kinds of food. It would be helpful if they could have narrow filters for Marwadi, Gujarati, Afghani cuisine. Even for south India, there are too varied tastes between Kerala / Tamil Nadu / Karantaka / Andhara. Update - I just noticed this is there but on the web app you have to type to find this. On the mobile app this is available to see in the filters.

2. Collections of the best - I would love to see a curated list of best restaurants for dating, best restaurants for hanging out with friends, best kids friendly restaurant. This will make the decision making so much easier. The current "hangout with friends" options on homepage is just a renaming for "cafes", that doesn't really help much.
This way Zomato will also have more badges to show for the restaurant. This is something similar to what TripAdvisor does for hotels. The restaurants will love to flaunt that.

3. Catering - The whole section is half-hearted effort. There is no decision one can make looking at the catering section. This section is new so it's too early to make a verdict, but Zomato is mature enough to not launch such half cooked features. What I would expect is a sample menu. Tell me what I can get for the given price. Give me different price points and the corresponding menu. Information about the dishes they use will also be helpful. Do I get disposable plates or Chandi ki Thali (silverware)?

4. Encourage people to rate a place. - When I login after a week, show me a widget with list of restaurants for which I checked out the menu earlier and ask me to rate them. When I do, ask me to write a review as well. This way there is a high chance of getting a hit of the right restaurant that I visited. How else would you make me go to the same restaurant's page again?

5. Facebook friends - I just noticed I have 129 FB friends on Zomato but never have I received a single alert about a review or rating from them. I believe instead of making the user explicitly follow FB friends on Zomato, make it default and let the user opt out. No its not spam, just a matter of default options.

6. Data - Minimum Amount for Home delivery - A lot of restaurants don't accept low value orders for delivery. Calling up multiple restaurants on a lonely famished evening only to find out that they won't deliver that little is too painful and embarrassing, providing this data is as useful as "Cost For 2".

7. Data - Private events - A lot of restaurants have special packages for birthday's / corporate parties. Having this data will be useful. This is somewhere between dining out and catering.

8. Data - Seasonal / festive guides - I want to order sweets for Diwali gifting. Where do I start? Navratra fasting - where do I go? A seasonal / festive guide that covers such situations would be very useful. Treat this on the lines of New Year Party listings that Zomato has been doing already. Needs editorial efforts but it will be able to payoff for itself. This might be covered with the point #2 mentioned above.

9. Increase CTR of ads - I am not really convinced with the way Zomato shows ads. Not showing sponsored listings in the search results may be good, but on the other hand it reduces returns for the advertiser. A matching result that is sponsored, isn't a bad thing to show, assuming the place has good ratings. Even in the current banner ad format, showing ratings, location and social endorsement will increase the effectiveness of the ads. Location will help the user, social endorsement will help the advertiser and ratings will help maintain the platform's credibility.

As someone trying to build a product company, what I like most is their their focus and execution. I LOVE their focus of doing one thing. And doing it so well that they could take it international. 

On Being A Passionate, Shameless Entrepreneur And Creating Your Luck

I was speaking to someone about the problems at FindYogi and the challenges that I am facing. During the conversation the person cut me short and declared, "may be you were just lucky with Freecharge". He was referring to the exponential growth we got at Freecharge, that I keep boasting about, but am not able to replicate with FindYogi.

I re-looked at this answer I wrote for a friend. I realised I was indeed lucky with Freecharge. How could a startup grow so much so fast otherwise?

Though what that answer doesn't tell you is the number of failed marketing attempts that we made, or how many times we wrote to people to write about us on their blogs or newspaper/magazine columns, or how many months we had to wait for approvals from telecom operators, or how many times we got rejected by payment gateways. All the external dependencies fell flat in the first attempt and yet we kept trying shamelessly. We pitched to every person who, we thought, could bring us more users. I tried everything that I had ever read about startup marketing and I was lucky that some of it worked.

That was the first real thing that I was working on, nobody really knew me and I had no reputation to keep. Yes, I was lucky because I was shamelessly trying. I did not have the mental boundary of expectations to carry.

As kids we are not raised that way. We are constantly reminded of "woh kya kahega", "woh kya sochega" for trying everything that we are not 100% sure of. But when you are passionate about something all that just does not matter.

Next time when you fear from failing at something give it some thought. Is it because you aren't really passionate about that thing? Is it because you believe that the reputation that you have today is bigger than the probability of success you want to have for tomorrow?

A lot of startup founders I see rarely talk about their own product on social media. Some of them don't feel great about what they are chasing and others have set a mental boundary of what greatness is. The greatness is the passion. It is like dancing in a baraat at an Indian wedding. People dance not because they are great at it but because they really feel great about that occasion.

A lot of people haven't put in their 100% into it. They still want to save onto something for the swim back. They don't know why they are running. They don't know where they want to go. They are not trying because they don't believe it is good enough to pursue. It's like they are running for the cheer but what they don't realise is that people actually cheer when you run passionately.

Two examples of this from people I know: 

Avlesh- Co-Founder of Webengage - Every tweet of his has a single goal, to sell his product. Do people call it spam? Yes, if he was not passionate about it, the tweets would be as bad as spam. But people are sold to his passion. I have seen how his number of followers have grown on twitter. His passion is contagious and no, it's not spam. People love cheering him because he loves running.

Annkur - Co-founder of Pricebaba - He executed a campaign to convince Google to name the recently launched version of Android as Kaju Katli. His failure was announced by Google last week, it's called KitKat. But he did not care. He started campaigning for the next version to be called Ladoo. He might succeed. Though I think he has already succeeded partially, because this time people are cheering him and campaigning for a cause he started. People don't bother about what you failed at earlier or what you attempted. If you really want to make something happen and your actions exhibit your passion, they will join you.

You have to be shameless to try things and ask for help like it is your last breath. For that, your passion to make it happen needs to be as big as the passion for your body to breathe. There is no second thought.

Here's something that happened to me few months back. I always believed I was good at SEO but the traffic on FindYogi did not reflect that. Last couple of months I have asked a lot of people for help with SEO. I have written to every person I think has even a little knowledge about it. I had to swallow my pride for that but that's OK. It wasn't easy but hey, I couldn't care less about what people would think about my knowledge when my product can't breathe to life. What I am making has to be bigger than the pride I carry now for what I have done till date.

A note to that person: I was not lucky, I created my luck. I tried hard shamelessly and created enough opportunities to be lucky. This time around though, it seems I might be carrying some extra baggage I need to let go off.

Bringing Something To Existence

1 comment:
Some random discussion with teammates and family has made me think over what I have achieved in the 4 years of working. I haven't earned money. My ESOPs aren't converting to cash any time soon. I have definitely built some relations, that are very helpful with my current startup.

Though what I really like to talk about is the fact that I was materialistic in bringing something to existence.

That one feeling is very strong and I believe that is something no one can takeaway. The money can be momentary. The relations can die if not nurtured well. But knowing that you have the ability to create something does a whole lot good to you than anything else. And now it's merely about repeating the same efforts, albeit in a different environment.

I believe everyone has the ability to create something, even if it is a 300 words of reading material, but a lot of people won't do it until they know exactly what they would get in return. A lot of times people leave out opportunity due to fear of getting lesser cash than they think the work effort deserves. Money is good but it just cannot replace the feeling that you get from creating.

I try thinking about work first and then the money. That has helped me. As much as possible, I haven't let money decide the work, before I start working. I have had bad aftertaste at times but then again, I got the opportunity to create.

1. I worked for $5/day at my first company because I wanted to understand how things work.
2. In my second company I did not have major part of my compensation decided till 8th month of work.
3. In one other company the papers and part of the total money came in very late - and with surprises.
4. I wouldn't have written so much about startups had I worried about money. The day I did, I stopped. I now realise how bad that was.

Had I worried about all this, I would be richer by couple of hundred thousand rupees. That is good money for most of us. The feeling, though, that I now carry, is priceless.

I have seen a lot of friends, colleagues and family members going back to doing what they were doing because the change wasn't materialistically rewarding. Almost all the time I find them struggling to enjoy the extra million they made.

All this while I have only had people encouraging me to secure the money first. Had I listened to them I wouldn't have been the same.

Anyways, gotta go back to work. Happy creating!

Zomato - The Good, Bad and More

Zomato, the app for foodies, asked for some feedback for their site and mobile app. Here's what I have to say.

I will try not focusing on the business decisions like expanding to multiple cities, offering discounts, table booking etc. User experience it is for now.

Good features:

Following are some good features that are part of the basic product and doesn't need to be talked about much.
  • Updated phone numbers
  • Menu's for almost all places
  • usable geo-tagging
  • good pics
  • timings data - "now open" feature is a good filter option. 

What I really like:

1. Microtagging - Even before I get to Zomato.com the Google search result for Zomato tells me more about the restaurant than any other site. They have used microtagging well to show "price for 2" as well. This one data point is the most important decision factor (I am a marwadi! :P).

2. Representation of features via icons on the listing/search page. Easy to understand icons around veg/non veg., delivery, bar, credit card etc.

3. Truthful about data availability. No SEO greed. For restaurants where Menu is not available the menu tab is not shown at all. A lot of others sites would add that tab for the sake of fetching SEO traffic and then say "Menu not available". The same is also conveyed on the search result page by removing the menu icon.

4. Data granularity in "Price for 2" - When the site says "price for 2" - it clearly mentions "without alcohol" which adds value to information but what is even more commendable is that they mention whether VAT, Service charges are applicable. Given the fact that these extras add around 25% more to your bill, its good to know in advance. Though, they need to consider Service Tax as well here. 
Tip - Add that to any liquor-serving air-conditioned place. 

Remarkable stuff: 

Stuff that may not affect a lot of users but the product designer has put some thought behind it. 

1. Right click on logo gives you an option to download the logo. Good for Media/bloggers.

2. No Google Ads- It's not easy to give away that temptation for any business. Not having those mostly irrelevant Google ads adds to the user experience. Direct banner ads of restaurants makes more sense.

3.  The Delhi homepage has "Upcoming Events" section above "Featured User Review" which is vice-versa for Bangalore. I am guessing there is a good amount of A/B testing happening.

What I don't like (Needs Improvement):

1. User ratings - The current state doesn't add much value. Make multiple categories for the review - Food, Service, Ambience etc.. This helps me decide whether this place is good for a date (ambience) or for treating hungry college friends (food).

Also categorize the ratings with time as "All Time Rating" and "Last 100 days ratings". Considering last years rating with the same weightage as yesterday's rating for Service or Food may not be helpful as the complete staff may have changed by now.

2. Summarize the review - I don't have all the time in the world to read 500 words of gastronomic affairs. Manu, for example, writes long reviews. Can't you tell me the gist of it? I believe there are open source summarization libraries available, a bit of algo refinement might be required but this isn't very tough. Do this and talk about it in social media, it will also help you hire better when college kids see that you are making an "engineering" product and not just another web application.

Also, "what is this restaurant famous for?" or "A must try" in this restaurant should be part of the review as separate fields.

Ofcourse, increasing the number of fields for a review can be a tricky trade off as this will add a friction for reviewer. A nice set of "optional" fields might help. Or may be again do some data engineering and pickout keywords from the detailed textual review, the way Babajob does.

3. Click to call - For some restaurants the number is mentioned on the site with an ext. number. You are adding an extra step for me to reach the restaurant. At times when I only need the number to book, or I have seen the restaurant on Zomato earlier, I prefer going to JustDial for the number.

Why not give a Click-to-call feature? Too costly I guess. It also kind of competes with table booking services and I am not sure if as a business you want to go that way. Given the fact that you are already doing Phantom numbers or ext. number based system, click to call only doubles the variable cost in short term but might give you bargaining power with your vendor as benefit around economies of scale kicks in.

That said, fake calls and verifying numbers before connecting could create another problem to solve. In the current state you are able to capture the call duration and user's number so your benefits are covered but user is left under-served. May be using the Facebook connect and only connecting the mobile number mentioned on FB profile might help. This could work as an incentive to connect FB profile to Zomato and then a hell lot of Social rich features could kick in.

Oh, you need to consider the fact that a lot offices don't allow FB access and alot of your lunch time usage happens from office. Tricky stuff.

4. Option Filters in search page- The current state of filters is not much usable. The filters mis-behave at times by either not allowing to choose 2 mutually exclusive options or not refining options based on current selection.

For example, when I select "Veg restaurant in Bangalore with live music" it does not let me filter out for bar. All options are disabled. The listing says that there are restaurants with and without bar for this filter but wouldn't let me narrow down.

On the other hand when I select "Happy hour restaurant in Bangalore" it still asks me for Bar/No Bar. Shouldn't it consider "Bar Present" by default? Happy hour is a sub feature of Bar.

There are other such cases of options being disabled/enabled without much intelligence.

Also, the pop-up for cuisine, location and cost is irritating. May be a slide ruler for cost and auto suggest text box with proximity search for location might help. This needs some extensive study.

5. Restaurant address on the listing/search result page is incomplete. I am guessing this is to keep more white space in the middle region and reduce clutter. Also, may be to increase page views. In either case, making me click once more to see the address is bad usability.

 May be you should show the locality along with restaurant name on top and then the rest of the address below. Example - Mention  "Pizza Hut, Saket" instead of only "Pizza Hut" and show rest of the address without "Saket" below.
Tip- This is also better for SEO as you would have different anchor tags for same restaurant at different locations.

6. Keyword based search is bad -  Provide auto suggest in keyword search as well. Atleast the restaurant names and "cuisine in locality" kind of pages should be indexed in the auto suggest. This will also help you serve better results in queries like "Italian in Koramangala". This is a standard search term but the current search algo uses "in koramangala" as a search phrase and looks for occurrences in review, which is kind of dumb. Ideally, "in" should be ignored. If auto suggest is used smartly, you may not need to use NLP to serve such queries better.

7. Banner ads do not add any value - Should be standardized, like Facebook. This is to make sure they add some value as well. Basic info like cuisine, cost, location should be mentioned. If an advertiser falls under my search result, they should be given more visibility to make sure the ad is as relevant as possible. I currently see random images in ads, in some cases the restaurant name is also not readable. Info mentioned above could be shown on mouse-over atleast.

8. Navigation - "Events" link is missing in the top menu bar. User has to scroll down every time on homepage to get to events page. The menu bar on Events page shows link to Restaurants page but vice versa is not true. Not sure if there's a business sense behind that.

9. The slide show on the top of Events Homepage (I checked for Bangalore and NCR ) is kind of irritating/confusing. It is probably hard coded to show 2 sets of slides in a series. With only 1 or 2 items put up on the slide show, I currently see both slides of same item in a single view. Look at the following image to understand this.

10. Data credibility - This restaurant is trending at #5 based one spam review (as seen on 14th Oct 2012). You have to make sure any restaurant featured in the trending list of the week has more data/review/rating to justify that. Specially if it is mentioned on the homepage of the city. Trending list is a very authoritative feature, don't play around with it.

Few Features That Will Enhance The Site Further

1. Restaurant Trending list -  Break down the restaurant trending list according to restaurant type.
Example - On Punjabi by Nature 
What I see - "#3 in Bangalore this week"
What you could show me more - "#1 North Indian Restaurant in Bangalore", "#1 in South Bangalore"

This wold surface more restaurant on a popular list and give an incentive to more restaurant owners to talk about this leaderboard on social media or at the restaurant.

2. Breakdown the reviewers Leaderboard further by type of restaurant. Show "Best reviewers in veg food", "best for bars", "best for five star places" etc. Idea is to surface more users and let them talk about it in social media. In the current state, new users would never be able to make it to the top of that list. May be make that list time dependent as well.

3. Facebook connect - No use elaborating on this. There is lot to be done that you might already be thinking of. Tripadvisor could be a reference point on how to make best use of it. Currently everything is hidden behind a signup button. There is more to be done before that.

4. Reviews - Only show selected reviews on the info page of the restaurant. Lot of unique content is good but it will also reduce the keyword weightage from an SEO point of view.
For example - If you look at the reviews of the top users for this restaurant, the restaurant name is not mentioned in most of the reviews. The review is adding about 300-400 extra words to the page without mentioning your target keyword even once. May be you should put a header like "Naman's review for Punjabi By Nature posted on 23rd July". This makes sense for user and adds the keyword as well.

Also, in the current state the Review page has only duplicate content from Info page. Since you are giving a dedicated URL to review page it would help (for SEO) to not repeat the content from Info page.

5. Search Results on a Map - This is something similar to what Commonfloor is attempting now for property search and Ixigo has been doing for quite sometime for Hotel search. Let the user point his current location on a map and say "restaurants within 2 KMs from this point." Although this is a feature particularly for mobile but at times people, specially in office, use the Zomato website and try to figure out if the place is close to office. Looking at textual addresses one by one is not really productive. Costly feature + low usage, shouldn't be a priority but will set you apart from competition. Shouldn't be tough for you as you already have geo-tagged data. 

6. Mascot - You should consider having a mascot. Authoritative stuff like trending list, Foodie Leaderboard etc. coming from a mascot will give you higher brand recall by giving a "personality" to the brand. 

7. Listen to twitter - A good number of users tweet one line reviews of restaurants on twitter. A lot times they mention @zomato in their tweet. These could be directly indexed on that restaurant's page. Allow twitter connectivity to Zomato and you may not need to depend on @zomato being mentioned in the tweet. 

Mobile App:

I don't use mobile much. Used Zomato app only a couple of times. The following details are from the Andorid App. 

What I liked:

1. Search page - The distance from current location and color coded rating is nicely done with good visibility. Mentioning the locality along with restaurant name on the search page itself is useful.

2. Navigation - The buttons are well sized and every link that you want to click is well placed. Unlike other apps, I don't need to click the home button always and start all over again.

This is specially useful when you try using the search result > filters > cuisine type. This action is divided on 3 screens but a collapsed form of all 3 screens is visible when you are typing the cuisine. You are never lost. 

3. Click to call - The ext. number for the restaurant is dialled in single click with a comma already placed with the number. Solves the usability problem mentioned earlier for the website. 

I did not like:

1. Restaurants with events - This data is not covered on the app. The whole events thing is missing from the app.

2. Filters with 0 results - Incase when a filter results in 0 matching results, user should be prompted to change search criteria. Or automatically show the next best thing. Currently, the user finds nothing to click and might end up quitting the app. 

3. "Distance from current location" on info sceen - This data is not provided on the restaurant's info screen. This is specially important when I am shown a random restaurant from the "Instant Recommendation" link. 

Would enhance the app further. 

1. Location Aware - Notifications like "3 Zomato users are in this restaurant right now" gives a lot of credibility to your app. I am guessing this would be a battery sucker due to regular monitoring but may be this feature should be turned on only at certain time of the day when you expect more people to be out for Dinner/Lunch. These are like auto checkins that can judge the popularity of restaurant. Analytics around what is the avg. turn around time per table at a restaurant could be a good sellable data. 

That's about it. All in all a good usable product with a neat focus. 

How I learnt driving...

No comments:

I have been driving daily without assistance for a month now. Driving has been a challenge for me, for the fact that I first tried driving about 10yrs ago in 10th standard and till date i have taken 4 full time driving classes, 3 of which were paid.

But how I learnt driving is pretty interesting.

1. I have my own car, it is an old second hand car, so did not have to worry about accidental loss much. The risk is calculated. All this while I would be worried more about accidents then actually driving.

2. I have a real need. Till now all procrastination wasn't hurting as I would be at home only for few days and would either have my brother drive me or get my dad's driver. Worst case, I would take a rickshaw which was even cheaper. In Bangalore though, I don't have that luxury and rickshaws are mostly costlier than self drive.

3. I knew where to drive. All this time whenever I drove I never knew the directions, I was trying to solve 2 problems at the same time - how to take a turn and where to take a turn. I wouldn't be prepared for the route and would end up passing the turn and then panic.

4. I wasn't driving too often until now. This thing needs practice on real roads. You can't be driving in a park, once a week and expect to learn. You have to turn up everyday for a date with the beast.

5. I was on my own and felt cheated. The last driving lesson I took was a deal that "The instructor would make me perfect in 7 days". What he really meant was, "He would be available only for seven days, whether I turn up for the lessons or not, whether I learn to drive or not." On the 7th day he came to me and said the course is over and his fee is due. I had taken only 3 classes in those 7 days.  I understood the terms only then, felt cheated and  then I decided to give it a try without instructor, just to make up for my sunk cost.

What I have realised is driving a car is so much like starting up. There are as many things in your control and the same number of external dependencies. I read somewhere that driving is not about controlling the steering wheel but about predicting what will happen next on the road. I think the same applies to business as well. One who can predict what will happen next in the market, can control it.

Though I might sound childish but sometimes it amazes me how millions of people use the same road without talking to each other and without hurting each other, yet they all reach their destinations. Discipline can do so much better to everyone.