Talking to Restaurant India, Vivek Kapoor shares about his online table reservation venture Dineout, his marketing strategies and the challenges he has faced in building his business.
How does Dineout work? Tell us about the marketing strategies you have adopted.
Dineout is a table reservation website. Being a start-up, we have struck the right balance between online and offline marketing. In online marketing, we have focused more on redirecting traffic by working on our SEO/SEM and also having a very interactive social media platform – approximately 30,000 diners following us on Facebook and Twitter.
In terms of our offline marketing, we do a lot of college activities by creating stalls. We do a lot of banner campaigns. We are in strategic alliances with many brands, like trip advisor, buzzintown and cashkaro.
What prompted you to select the industry?
There were two primary reasons for us to select this industry and product, First is huge market size and growth potential in coming years, and secondly, real need of customers who want to dine out and explore new places in an easy and convenient manner.
Who are your target audience?
Our target demographic is urban population in Tier 1 cities where dining out has become fairly common. In Phase 1, we intend to target Delhi and Mumbai, as there are more than 1,000 top notch dine in restaurants with one million people dining out in a month.
What challenges do you face in building up your business and how do you overcome them?
The biggest challenge that we faced while scaling up was from the unorganised restaurant industry. There was a lack of information flow in the restaurant hierarchy. On top of that, we were fighting a resistance, as we were trying to bring about a behavioural change of accepting technology. Technology solution that we are providing is going to revolutionise the booking structure in restaurants.
The second biggest challenge was hiring/building a team, which is in sync with your ideas and vision. Getting the right crowd, who is as mad as you in chasing that ultimate dream, is hard.
What is your expansion plan in near future? Who all do you think as your competitors in this segment?
We are planning for pan-India presence of Dineout. There is no service currently which I would say is a direct competition to us in the market. If people think we are competing with Zomato, it is not true. Zomato is more of a search engine but we are into table reservations and bookings. We have a totally different business model.
Do you think that mobile technology will create a new norm in the food industry?
Mobile technology will be new norm in the coming months. We at Dineout have seen a significant increase in our numbers since, we launched our App on IOS and Android. We are getting almost 30 per cent of our traffic through our mobile channels. People are looking to book tables and cash on the localised deals. We have partnered with many restaurants on the platform called Electronic Reservation Book (ERB). This is going to be the game changer. We have already had a pilot of this ERB with almost 20 restaurants in Delhi. It has been received pretty well.
Despite of the fact that restaurants are adopting technology, online table reservation did not really pick pace, and Indian market still prefer calling for table reservations. What is your take on this?
I do agree that to bring about a shift to online booking is going to take time, but we are surely moving towards it. Today, Dineout has been successful, because we have incorporated online and offline channels. We have tried to make it simple for the diner as per his convenience. Today, my traffic through online channels is almost 40 percent, which is quite significant. In fact since the time we have aligned our online channels, we ourselves have seen a shift in user behaviour. Diners who used to call prefer to book through their mobiles.
What is the key of success for Dineout?
It’s a team effort!
Dineout has grown after you received funding last year. Share your number where you are now.
We get approximately 18-20 thousand diners per month and we have over 450 restaurants listed on our site.
What are your parting words for the budding entrepreneur in this field?
Faith in your product and patience are the pillars. But the engine is your team. The core team, is much important than the idea. Without a good team, a good idea will be of no use.