Zomato Feedback 2.0

1 comment:
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!