Just click eat

Written by Namrata Rao | Updated: Apr 20 2014, 08:35am hrs
Three young friends are lazing around in a posh living room, visibly bored. One of them decides to order a pizza online, the second one prompts him on what to order, while the third dozes on a sofa. Within a matter of a few clicks, an order is placed, so fast that their fourth friend, whose card was used to make the payment, did not have enough time to return from the washroom and stop the process.

This is one of the several commercials for Dominos Pizzas online ordering service, a popular commercial on air today. And, as the commercial shows, availing of online food services has become just that easy.

A 2013 report by the National Restaurant Association of India pegged the Indian food service industry at $48 billion and expected it to double in size by 2020. Some of the key growth drivers and emerging trends, said the report, were a rising number of tech-savvy consumers, increasing importance of online/social media, food websites and mobile applications and an increasing share of delivery and takeaway formats.

In fact, thanks to growth in computer literacy and access to smartphones and the Internet, the food delivery business in India is all set to grow, says a 2014 report by management consulting firm Technopak. And leading this change from the front is Dominos Pizza.

As per the report, titled India Food Services Trends, of Dominos total reported revenue of around R385 crore in the third quarter of 2013, about 50% came from the delivery business. Of this, about 14% of the total delivery sales were made through online channelsmobile apps and online ordering. Although their mobile app business, which started in 2012, only contributes about 10% of the online business (which started in 2011), Dominos Pizza expects this to double within a year, the report says.

While Dominos Pizza has gone ahead with its own website and app, other operators are also tapping into the market. Many have joined hands with specialised delivery portals like FoodPanda, TastyKhana, JustEat, among others. These portals work on a commission-based model and help the consumer access multiple restaurants through a single website/mobile number.

Zomato, a restaurant-rating website, has also rolled out a new version of its Web and mobile product, adding a new, social layer to restaurant discovery and personalised recommendations from people. Even before the advent of the Internet, people relied on social opinions for restaurant discovery. In our endless discussions with our users, we realised this behaviour is still widely prevalent, but not catered to effectively by existing local discovery tools or review websites, says Deepinder Goyal, founder and CEO of Zomato. With our new product, we want to cater to that intrinsic behaviour in an amplified, social setting, he adds.

Agrees Zomatos chief marketing officer Alok Jain: The new version is our first step towards becoming the social network for foodies, he says, adding, Social media plays a huge role in helping people make decisions about going out to eat or ordering in. Social validation from a trusted source does, in fact, go a long way in helping us decide where to eat. With the revamp of our website and mobile app across all platforms, Zomato now not only provides in-depth restaurant information, but also has a strong social angle that brings users together by letting them build networks of foodies they trust. With the new product rollout, we have moved towards being a social restaurant search service, connecting people over their shared love for food and, in turn, helping them discover great places to eat around them.

Jain says the revamp is focused more on getting the millions of users to engage and interact with one another in a social setting, rather than just visiting Zomato when deciding where to eat.

The social setting that Jain talks about, keeping in mind Internet penetration in India, especially in metros and satellite cities, and the preference for social media by the young populace, is a make-or-break tool. India has a median age of 26 years and the use of the Internet is part of this young populations lifestyle, as this has become the preferred mode of expressing views, seeking opinions and sharing feedback, says the Technopak report. The youth immediately connects with brands which are seen to be socially active. Since the youth forms the bulk of the consumer base for most food service operators today, social media has evolved as the medium of choice for connecting with the consumers, says the report.

For brands, the Internet and social media have opened up exciting possibilities not only for healthy brand-building, but also to yield better business mileage on the back of rising Web and smartphone penetration, says Reetesh Shukla, associate director, food services and agriculture, Technopak. The use of Internet on handheld smartphones is rising, which, in turn, is driving access to, and use of, social media. It is getting easier to be seen by the consumer via social media channels than through traditional media. The situation is certainly poised to witness greater diversity in the way social media marketing is approached and implemented in coming years. Now, its time to turn the social media into social business, says Shukla, adding: The advantage of social media over traditional media is that it is more direct, extremely time-efficient for brands and their consumers.

The Technopak report calls Facebook the most preferred social media channel in India, with approximately 82 million users (by June 2013), next only to the US and Canada. It also mentions that India is also projected to have the largest Facebook user population by 2016. And as the Technopak report says, irrespective of their individual offerings, brands need to converse with their consumers: the better this conversation, the greater their share of the pie.