After we published our take on the round of allegations from Zomato related to copying of listings, and counter-allegations from Burrp, we were approached by both Zomato and Burrp, to present their side of the story and offer some clarity on the matter. While we’re still waiting for an interaction with Vishal Anand of Burrp (which Burrp has postponed), we did speak with Deepinder Goyal, CEO of Zomato. Excerpts from our conversation:
MediaNama: Are you planning to take some action against Burrp, including taking legal recourse?
Goyal: Well we discussed it with Burrp last night, and they have assured us that they will be conducting an internal audit of their listings, and have promised to fix all listings with Zomato numbers in the next 15 days. They have also got hold of two people who have not been moderating listings, as per due process. We have decided not to take any legal action. (This is an updated response.)
Medianama: How did you first discover that Burrp was copying your listings?
Goyal: Well we always keep a check on our competitors, and for that matter even Burrp does. Last year, we were informed by Anand that there were some reviews being copied from their site. We checked and removed the reviews and it was just 3-4 users who were doing it. Then, a few months back we noticed Menu cards that had Zomato’s water mark on them. It takes a lot of time and effort for our field staff to collect these menus. For example, this famous Mumbai restaurant called Candies. We then informed Burrp about the menu in question and they blamed moderation glitches, and promised to remove the menu. Now, Burrp has a section on its homepage that highlights new additions, so we noticed some listings carrying numbers that were internal Zomato numbers, which were being used by a very small percentage of restaurant to redirect calls for table bookings. We again informed them, to which they responded that its a one time glitch and that they are a huge site and that we shouldn’t create a mole hill.
MediaNama: But there isn’t there a possibility that a staff member might have given the number for the listing?
Goyal: Well the number has been allocated by us, the staff member would give the restaurant’s number, why would he read it from the site? Also, it’s not a one off incident, we have around 700 such numbers for 400 listings, out of which 30 are without any extension numbers, and 10% of these are showing from Burrp on search. That is when we decided to go public with this matter, because despite their promises, we did not see any action.
Medianama: Do you have an exclusivity clause with some listings, that prevent restaurants from giving information to others?
Goyal: No, we don’t have any exclusive listings.
MediaNama: You also mentioned GPS data coordinates?
Goyal: Yes. We actually use very sophisticated positioning systems for location data. We can’t say that the coordinates have been completely copied till we see them upto the 10th place, but a user submitting location coordinates is not palpable.
MediaNama: So how does it impact your business?
Goyal: Well we definitely lose out on traffic, since the same listing shows up on search. This does result in erosion of business. I can’t comment on search ratings because they depend on the search engine’s algorithms but yes when a user finds out that there is no differentiation, why would he come back to you? It affects brand loyalty for sure, even when we offer good content. About 40% of our fixed cost goes into data collection, so it’s a valuable asset for us.
MediaNama: What about Burrp’s allegations?
Goyal: As I mentioned, they have a higher attrition rate, but we don’t go about approaching their employees. The two people who’re with us applied on their own, and we’ve never discussed how Burrp works internally. Yes every one does competitor research but we like doing things in a clean way. Fake ratings is a lie, our data collectors invest a lot of effort and time in collecting user ratings. Also, any local listings business would have features that they mentioned, it’s no rocket science. The allegations are base-less.