Zomato the Unicorn has been in the news in the recent past for all the right and wrong reasons. Everybody has an opinion of how badly it is managed, what they should do right and so on.
As an observer, user, advocate of Zomato from the time of its birth, most of this is irrelevant to me.
Our relationship was an accident. The erstwhile Burrp was in existence, on its way to being acquired etc. the story best told by Anand the co founder when Zomato made its presence felt. Teething, baby steps except in some conversation with Sanjeev, I had no knowledge. On looking at it, found myself a mate, the beginning of a relationship, me having a lot of visited places to share and Zomato offering a platform.
It evolved over time, Web to app, sure there were hiccups like somebody inviting on behalf of Zomato which they had no clue and immediately sorting it out. Then launching a book and calling a few of us – quite surprising because an online platform launching a book. All thru the journey what kept me there was – engagement, neutral stance, immediate recourse to feedback, and somebody listening always. It made one feel a partner.
Then came the point system, it gave a sense of accomplishment for a while till it became a game of up manship. So in true marketing gyaan they started splicing – Bombay became suburbs, suburbs became lanes and so on – with everyone becoming an expert in something or the other.
The next logical step was monetization in a big way – So advertising, algorithm, rewarding, more splicing, pay for it and so on. Sometime 2 years ago in Ahmedabad I saw the first sticker that said ‘Review us on zomato’ at a restaurant and was offered an ice cream free.
I laughed it off then, but realised that many restaurants were offering it with tacit approval. Checked with a couple of clients who agreed sheepishly that it was mutually decided. Maybe I was acting too principled?
They launched the ordering App which offered discounts, But the original App from which you could order did not offer them. Upon asking there was some vague unsatisfactory answer.
Here in parallel, the ‘Bloggers’ and Restaurants were creating their own music, because of some algorithm etc etc so restaurants needed a certain nos of reviews to be put in collections or be listed or whatever.
Super, whilst it irritated me, didn’t really matter much. Tried the order App for comparison – screw up and then was offered Rs. 50/- for the trouble.
Some new changes, which said I had to write a review, copy, integrate on my blog and link and do this or that and many more to be entitled to be counted amongst the list? Duh! Why would I want to do all this? Because you’re part of the community. Brilliant so you earn and I work free.
After the much awaited upgrade, checked and saw some more changes under the hood. Besides the online, where clarity of charges and all are still very grey and delivery is just OK, the list – famous one – has reviews done in the past 6 months to be eligible and begins with an average of 29-35 reviews every month. A little pissed off, started to read and then laughter erupted – somebody who was not even in town had reviewed; somebody has described each dish exactly like the menu, so on and forth.
During this time, I receive an email that says I’ve been selected to do beta test of some live edit of restaurants etc. Hello, I do not recall signing up for this. Another email saying my instagram photos have been snyced.
Visiting couple of new places, all have a card asking for a Zomato review, with one having printed menu offering 15% off.
It has just been downhill for the last couple of years. I can understand that Revenues are a must, but at the cost of what? Yes you need more signups, but at the cost of alienating consistent and old loyalists? Analytics, Tech, interaction should at least have taught you how to handle different customers/partners. Particularly when you claim to be in the hospitality business.
Yes, of course you will push for Quantity but at the cost of Quality? Signing or listing sandwich or bhelpuri guys who do not have a fixed addresses? Getting reviews or writing done by dozens. Talking about Neutrality and checking where? Sure, you have spawned many more entrepreneurs – 50/- for a review; zomato reviewers for launch; I am a zomato blogger and you better be nice to me; restaurants paying for algorithm changes, listing so need these guys.
But I am sorry, call me old, principled, incorrect target audience or any other name, but I cannot subscribe to this so called ‘Economics & Revenue’ drive. Yes 40,000 orders will come, you will have an internal bench mark of 10-12% complaints – give them Rs 50-100 voucher or credit and they will be happy, but that doesn’t work for me.
I miss the culture, the principles that were initially there which acted as a magnet and stickiness for many of us, which no longer exists.
Will I still visit, write – sure, but now don’t see the passion, loyalty of yester years.
Will I cheer and debate for Zomato probably when relevant.
You have grown, become an adult, probably entitled to drink, vote, have better and younger friends. Do not see the need to retain old relationships. We understand, and wish you well! May you achieve your dreams!