Customer perspective of the Food Startups in India

I live in Bangalore(also known as Bengaluru) which is one of the biggest hubs for startups in India. I reside in Koramangala which is a sub-locality which has one too many restaurants.

People think Food Startups are supposed to solve the problem of

  1. Discovery — To allow the customer to identify what are the restaurants near them and
  2. Conversion — To help order with ease and get the items delivered

There is another problem which is not taken into account and there is no solution. Its the ‘scale’ problem.

The scale problem kicks in when you have hundreds of orders every minute and there are handful of people who take the orders from a portal and call to confirm the restaurants to place and confirm the order (while they miss out the time for delivery which is where the bad CX(Customer Experience) happens).

Dominos used to do have this problem of scale, but tried to solve it with the 30 minute guarantee delivery which was dis-continued. They have other ways to escape this, by pulling off chords from their phone lines or not picking up the phones etc., Online orders started to solve this problem, but there is a case of stupidity and sheer lack of UX in their website.

The Dominos Website

God!, you’d find a website done by a single inexperienced person better in UX than a complete team of people doing it. If someone sues Dominos, they better sue them for their Customer Experience Usability. (This requires a separate post. My hatred towards their website since 7+ years continues)

When you order something in the Mc Donald’s store, they give you an estimate by when your order is going to come. Keeping people in the loop is very good. Some companies try to do this and show couple of steps for the sake of it. Its typically this —

Your item is being prepared. Your order will reach any time between the next 10 minutes — 1 hour

Startups use other startups which is good for the ecosystem and innovation, but since everyone is in a startup state, they usually do not have proper processes for everything. I ain’t blaming anyone, but I am just pointing out the state of the complete system.

Let’s start from the website

Problem#1 — What do I order? — Discovery

  • Every person has different tastes in everything. Zomato is one of the only and best apps which has that information particular to restaurants. What item to order, what are famous, what did people like.

  • I believe Zomato can auto-suggest or personalise the complete experience of suggestions of items along with customisation.

  • Because of the competition between startups to sell more by adding restaurants, no one really cares about personalisation which e-commerce sites are already ahead of.

Problem#2 — Veg / Non-veg on the menu

  • Very few companies have done this in their apps and websites. A consistent user experience is usually nice.

Problem #3 — Address — Instead of the address, if you give a GPS coordinate, it solves your problem. This applies equally for all deliveries alike (E-commerce vs Food) startups.

You are in the middle of an important task or meeting and you get a call —

Sir, where is your address? I am right now near ‘ Signal’

  • I always wonder why there was no startup or service which allows you to fill your address details. Every time, you need to fill in the address or find what is your location and enter it even though you have an exact location of where you are (When ordering from a friend’s house). India does not have addresses well streamlined like the US postal systems have. You cannot identify a house with a 4 digit number + 5 digit pin-code.

Problem #4— Waiting for the food (Refreshing the browser and cursing the company you ordered from).

  • Adding a real-time tracking based on the delivery person’s phone. You have GPS coordinates, you have some servers to get that info, you display those based on the orders he is carrying to the customers. There could be a little extra work if you are integrating with other companies or other apps.

Problem#5 — Offers/Coupons

Everybody loves coupons. There are loads of coupon websites and everyone wants a better price. There are several ways different companies solve this.

  • Flipkart — does not have a concept of coupons or providing different prices to different customers (until now). It auto applies the coupons.
  • Amazon — has it on every product page when applicable.
  • Big Basket / Ola — Providing all eligible coupons to allow customers avail the offer
  • Swiggy / Food Panda — Search on the internet every time you need one.

Some companies use a loyalty program to get you discounts while ordering from their website/apps.

Problem #6 — CASH

  • CASH is a very very hard thing to maintain, give and transact. This is a problem from both the customer and the delivery associate. He might not get enough change to provide change to everyone in the route.
  • Credit Cards ? — They require network, they require good signal, they require you to provide an additional pin to enter. Credit Cards are good if you are performing a big transaction say few thousands or buying stuff online (or standing in line in a store, (but this will change soon too)).
  • People use PayTM. Loads of them do. If not that, Airtel Money, If not that some other wallet. Most people have their phones on them. Companies like CCAvenue have been only doing one thing. A Payment Gateway aggregator and could not get in the Wallet game like Mobikwik or PayTM.
  • Companies which provide Wallet services need to have an offline and simple to transact via SMS or via offline or scan of barcode (ChaiPoint does this via barcode scanner but their service lacks idempotency checks). People would be ready to transact via PayTM as long as I acknowledge the sale of goods which can be by allowing the customer to provide an OTP to the delivery person on receiving of goods. (with the exception cases of partial transaction)

Problem#7 — Lack of End to End Customer Experience Ownership

  • Restaurants get their money through the Food Aggregators which source them orders. They are less about how late its going to reach the customer since its not their problem. They just need to get the food ready. Everyone cares about their own problem. There is no overall feedback loop.
  • I have seen on an instance that Eatlo take the feedback. It’d be good if companies keep the feedbacks open and what they have done which would gain customer trust.

Problem #8 — Healthy and Tasty Food

  • There are couple of startups which provide you Tasty food options for Rs. 100/- ($2). These food options are great, getting used to every day in a month is hard.
  • When a dietician suggest you a diet, they expect you can get all options of food from rice bowls to roti to fruit bowls to eggs. You won’t have a single location for a balanced diet unless you spend good amount of time every day to search, travel and get food.

My Personal experiences

  • You cannot (the API endpoints are down or choked — The app won’t even open) and should not place an order during a rush hour day on Swiggy. The orders only reach the customers only after 2–3 hours once the order is confirmed(not placed). Once their hunger gets killed and this single order becomes a regret.
  • MastKalandar (MK Dabbawala) has started a brand and sells to-be expired pickles (which are going to rot in another week or two) and doesn’t give a damn when you call their Customer Service. MastKalandar is as well very famous for late deliveries even though the customer is < 1 Km away. People are hooked for the consistency of food quality and desserts.
  • As a regular customer and a foodie, I only respect couple of startups which maintain Quality of Service and provide Value for Money. FreshMenu is one of them whose quality of food never degrades. Delivery experience differs from weekdays to weekends.
  • All normal restaurants try to ensure customer experience within the restaurant, but doing it on delivery fails because of the outsourcing or other factors which are outside of their control like Traffic or no. of deliveries a person handles or getting the food cold etc.,

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Where to start when planning to build a website or web presence from scratch

I will be writing about the familiar part of the flow, the process of starting to build the website from scratch to launch, which comes at a stage after you have validated and ensured that you’d be working on getting the website up.

  1. Get the idea right detailed in a 1 pager. Detail in what the service does and what its not supposed to do. StackExchange has a great example - Area51 (The Staging Zone) go through an elaborate process of where users define what are considered good & bad questions so that it clearly defines the scope
  2. Find and Analyse the competition. You should think about complementing the existing services or do much better than them to avoid people saying “another e-commerce website”. Companies with deep pockets spend money in capturing users and new companies without funding can drain faster trying to keep up with competition.
  3. The process for getting the site out live - I have seen many websites in this phase which I can explain well (both the good and the bad parts). Skipping (1) & (2) might cost you a visible hole in the financials if realised after the fact.

Since you have the functionality listed now, you’d need a lot of other things to get over.

Step 1 - Company and Domain Name:

Determining the name of the company is a challenge since you’d want the search result on Google to get your name rather than somebody else’s. Having the same domain name and company name helps for referencing (startups usually do, others do not).

This is the toughest one if you are looking for dotCom domain since most of the names you can think of are parked or already been setup, especially if you are starting another cloud based product. If you are looking for a local websites using ccTLDs (has impact on SEO), you might be in a better position to get the name you want.

Step 2 - WireFraming:

WireFraming helps you understand the essential items in each and every page that are listed along with the basic user experience of the website.

If you want a different layout for phones, ensure you cover them as well. (The wireframes would be different for phones based on the resolution).

Popular choice of tools: Balsamiq, Pen & Paper

Step 3 - UI Design:

The aesthetics and colours are decided here with dimensions of the components in each of the pages. The non-web designers who do not deal with interactions in the rich-web space do not care about hovers, dynamic content, screens when loading content, image aspect ratios, several font