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Plan to expand in south east and middle Asia: Deepinder Goyal

Interview with CEO & Founder, Zomato

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Restaurants, restaurant reviews, guide and events listings' portal is looking to take itself to newer national and international territories, taking up a third round of funding of close to $ 10 million and has recently introduced a bunch of social features on its site. Pravda Godbole spoke to Deepinder Goyal, CEO and founder, Zomato about the company's expansion plans, investments and how he plans to manoeuvre the company through the thick of competition.

Zomato operates in how many cities currently? Where do you plan to expand to?
Zomato currently operates in 10 cities - Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Pune, Hyderabad, Ahmadabad, Jaipur and Chandigarh. We are expanding both within India and internationally. In India, we are currently looking at Lucknow, Indore and Ludhiana. Internationally, we are more ambitious and have already started operations in Dubai and Singapore. The Dubai section will go live in August and Singapore soon after. We also planning to expand into other cities in South East Asia and Middle East by the end of 2012.

How much of investment would your expansion plan eat up?
We run a very capital efficient business. So the cost would be restricted to content aggregation (both organically and through acquisitions), and marketing to build up awareness and traffic.

Would this require fresh funding? How much?
We have raised $6.5M so far. We are currently in talks for our third round of funding of around $10 Million to drive the next phase of expansion, product development and marketing.

How many restaurants/ eateries are currently listed with you?
Zomato currently provides in-depth information for over 35,000 restaurants across 10 cities in India. This number is growing very fast - we add about 3000 new outlets every three months.

After menus, reviews, events, ratings and listings, what will be your next one?
We’ve recently launched a bunch of social features on Zomato. The aim of integrating social features into our website was to create a larger food community and add a social aspect to the recommendation engine. Once a user logs into Zomato using their or account, it automatically pulls up a list of their friends already registered on Zomato. They can follow their friends and get notifications about their activities – reviews, ratings, favourites and recommendations. Adding a leader-board for top reviewers in each of our locations also encourages friendly competition between users – there’s only 25 spots on the leader-board after all! We will be launching these features on our apps as well very soon.

What is Zomato’s business model?
In short, the model revolves around hyper-local advertising. Close to 3.5 million foodies visit Zomato every month to discover or search for the best places to eat around them. This is a very effective platform for restaurants to reach out to their customers.

There have been some instances of data theft from Zomato, is there any way of having your data secured from competitors etc? 
For any local search company such as ours, there is always a data security threat. We have unique/proprietary data points being shown on the website. These data points are proprietary to the business in a manner of representation and/or collection and any malicious competitor activity can be easily tracked when these data points show up on their website. To pre-empt data theft, we have also built custom bugs (0.5 per cent of the data being served is intentionally wrong), which will help us recognise and prove that this data was originally ours.

What differentiates you from Burrp who has a similar offering?
Zomato's focus has always been on restaurants and events happening at restaurants. The content (except reviews and ratings) is completely sourced and curated by Zomato and is not user generated. Zomato is also platform agnostic – apart from the website, we have apps for all major smartphones (Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Nokia OVi, Windows, etc) and are also available in print (Citibank Zomato Restaurant Guide 2012).

What is the way ahead for Zomato?
From zero to 3.5 million users per month, 8.5 lakh plus app downloads, 150 young and enthusiastic Zomans spread across 12 offices (2 outside India), 35,000 plus restaurant listings, and over 1000 clients, Zomato’s journey over the 4 years has been nothing short of exciting. We have always believed in keeping the users at the center of everything we do and the way ahead is to keep shaping the product based on user needs and to make restaurant search simpler for the foodie community. We are also focusing our increasing our reach further. Launching Dubai and Singapore, expanding into other key markets, building rich content around the restaurants there while strengthening our presence in India is what lies ahead of us.

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