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Lessons from a global startup: 'Stick to the core, don't get distracted'

Divina Paredes | April 15, 2014
Zomato country manager Sahil Ludhani discusses how this applied to the restaurant search and discovery service.

"Be very sure of the product and maintain your core competence. Don't get distracted in what you are doing," is the key advice Sahil Ludhani provides for startups.

The New Zealand manager for Zomato recalls how the restaurant search and discovery service learned this lesson as it was growing the business.

Zomato provides in-depth information for more than 221,000 restaurants across 12 countries, most recently New Zealand and Portugal. The site features menus, photos and geocoded coordinates for restaurants; allows users to rate and review restaurants, as well as create their own network of foodies.

Zomato was started in Delhi in 2008 by Deepinder Goyal and Pankaj Chaddah. Today, it says it has more than 16 million monthly visits globally, across its Web and mobile platforms.

In between this growth, says Ludhani, Zomato branched out to other businesses but eventually shut them down. For example, it started doing events ticketing and social media management for the restaurants, he says.

"We shut all those sections and we realised our core is restaurant discovery and having good content. We decided to stick to the core."

He says this principle was applied when Zomato revamped its website and mobile app, and added a "social layer" of personalised recommendations from people whose opinions the users value.

The revamped site, which was launched last week, considered two factors, says Ludhani: that individual preferences vary, and building a more trusted ecosystem of recommendations will result in quicker and easier decision making.

Ludhani says Zomato is the first to include personalised recommendation from people trusted by the users. The users can import their contacts from Facebook and Google Plus and follow their recommendations on places to go.

This meant, however, that Zomato will now be a login-only service.

CEO Deepinder Goyal says this is the biggest change so far for the service and it meant "effectively rebuilding Zomato from scratch" in a lot of areas.

"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. With our new product, we want to cater to that intrinsic behaviour in an amplified, social setting," says Goyal


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