QnA With Foodlets Team On User Incentives and Premium Services

We covered a rather yummy startup, Foodlets yesterday and raised quite few questions on user motivation and differentiation from valley startups in the same domain. Here’s a quick QnA with Sagar Arlekar of the Foodlets team, sharing about the team and execution.

1. What does the Foodlets team look like? How many of you are full time into this?
Foodlets was founded by me and Govind Naroji in June 2010. Rohit Barreto joined us in March 2011 to take care of business development.

Sagar Arlekar heads Product Development. He has a MTech degree from IIIT Bangalore. Sagar is an open source enthusiast and writes for ‘Linux For You’ magazine. Sagar is also a visiting Research Engineers at Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP).

Govind Naroji is in charge of Software Infrastructure and Quality Control. He has a BE degree in IT from Goa College of Engineering and has been a part of the IT industry for over 5 years.

Rohit Barreto heads the Business Development. Rohit had earlier worked at a Exports and Shipping firm as Manager (Commercial Affairs). Rohit has a BE degree in Computer Science from Visvesvaraya Technological University. Rohit is a trained musician.

All of us are full time into Foodlets. Govind quit his job in April 2010, I quit in November 2010 and Rohit in February 2011.

2. What is the end game? How do you make money?
Fooodlets has premium services for Restaurants. We send in professional photographers and create visual menus for Restaurants for a fee. Additionally, restaurants can buy ad space on the site. Specifically in the Slide Show on the frontpage and ‘Featured Restaurants’ widget on the Browser Foodlets pages.

3. What is the user’s incentive/motivation to upload a pic?
Users get to create an online portfolio of the food they have had and share it with their friends. Besides this we are currently developing a promotions feature for restaurant owners where they can reward people who create foodlets for their restaurants or affirm their dishes.

4. Is it any different from Foodspotting or Fiddme?
Foodspotting and Fiddme are limited to being crowdsourced applications, where as on Foodlets.in, restaurants can create foodlets themselves or use our paid premium service to create their entire portfolio.
Besides getting to see food photos, users can also see restaurant photos and checkout the events at restaurants. Also, we are working on a promotions feature for restaurants where they can create discounts and events and promote it among their users.

To summarize, at Foodlets the data can comes in through 3 ways
1) Crowdsourced – users share what they eat
2) Restaurant owners create their own visual menus
3) Restaurant owners get on Foodlets using our premium service

5. Why would they take a premium service? They can always have a user account and post everything, like any other user.
Ofcourse restaurants can do it themselves, but they prefer buying our premium service. Foodlets makes it more economical for a restaurant to create its visual menu against hiring a professional photographer and building a portfolio with all the details.

Restaurants are ready to pay and want us to handle the entire process, from creating their restaurant profile page to getting the food snaps clicked by a professional photographer to uploading it with all the details (name, price, description etc.).

We ran a pilot in Goa and got more than 30 restaurants covered by premium service, these include 5 of Tito’s properties and Baywatch Resort. Only 1 restaurant created its own account. In Mumbai too restaurants prefer paying us rather than doing it on their own. We just started our operations in Bangalore and Italia became the 1st restaurant to buy the premium service.

6. What inspired you to start foodlets?

There are dozens of restaurant review and online ordering services in India. We found 2 major shortcomings with these services
1) They focus on the restaurants and not on individual dishes.
2) They are heavily text based and users don’t get to see how the food looks.

We wanted to build a new exciting way to search for food and to network with other food lovers. Offcourse when we looked around we found Foodspotting and Eatly (now acquired by Foodspotting). My mentor at IIITB, Prof Rajagoplan had mentioned to us right in the beginning that the crowd-sourcing model doesn’t  fit well in the Indian mentality and it’s not a viable way to build a business here. As a proof to this now we see that Foursquare and Foodspotting haven’t been big hits in India.

Additional my mentor at CSTEP, Dr Subrahmanian suggested that Foodlets should be charging restaurants by providing them useful services.

This is how we evolved to become different from Foodspotting and Fiddme.

Do try Foodlets and let us know what you think of it.

[Naman is a startup enthusiast and has worked with couple of Indian startups as Product Manager. He is the founder of FindYogi]