Miten Sampat, GM & Business Head at TimesCity told Medianama that these partnerships were signed recently, although he declined to comment on the terms of this partnership or the revenue sharing arrangement it has with these companies. He said these partnerships will provide Times City with access to several restaurants and venues across different parts of the country.
Remember that the company had earlier tied up with Mobikon to offer a similar restaurant booking service. Sampat said this tie-up will continue to exist since all the three companies differ in terms of restaurant type and the area it covers.
Movie Ticket Booking: Sampat also added that they plan to introduce movie ticket booking service in the future but refused to divulge any further details. It is not clear if TimesCity will tie-up with an existing booking service for this service or launch one of its own.
Times Deals & TimesCity Being Integrated? TimesDeal is a separate app as of now, but it looks like the company is thinking of integrating the two. “We think deals are important as it might influence a user. So it is a logical thing for us to have and at some point we will integrate it,” Sampat says.
New TimesCity Mobile App
TimesCity also released a revamped version of its iOS and Android app earlier this week, which lets users make plans with friends to visit a restaurant, movie or event via integration with messaging apps such as WhatsApp, SMS, Gmail and Google+. The table reservation feature has not been integrated into it yet and as far as booking movie tickets are concerned, the app does let you call any theatre so you can request them to keep tickets aside for you.
This revamp follows the acquisition of Pune-based restaurant recommendation mobile app Gawbl earlier this year, following which TimesCity had shut down the app and stated plans to add Gawbl features like its recommendation mechanism to the TimesCity mobile app.
The redesigned app also offers contextual information, for example, in the app home screen it shows the next show at a nearby theatre and provides nearby restaurant recommendations. It also has a trending section which lists top events or movies, but they are not entirely based on interest of users or social signals. Sampat says that they will add social signals in the near future.
What’s interesting is this information is also customised to each user. It asks yes or no questions like “Life is a combination of dosa and chutney. Does South Indian food add masala to your life?” or “Does a Big Mac make your heart jump?” or “It’s hot, it’s spicy and it’s tandoori! Does North Indian food make you drool?” to name a few to better understand the user. Sampat says that the app keeps these answers in mind while recommending places. For example, if a user indicates he is a vegetarian, he will never be shown a haleem place.
Differentiation: At least for restaurant listings, TimesCity will be competing with Zomato, but Sampat says that TimesCity is “not presuming that we want people to do only thing,”. He also feels that reviews from critics helps them stand out.
The app has a points system that is similar to that of Zagat, a company Google acquired in 2012, which rates food, service and ambiance separately instead of giving a place an aggregate score. It needs to be remembered that Google also asks users to rate these elements separately, but combines them into an aggregate review at the end. Once you figure out where to go to, the app also lets you navigate to the location using Google Maps integration.
That said, it hasn’t integrated features from Google Places such as photos and reviews into the app. “We have been talking to Google about different things and at the moment we haven’t integrated Google Places as it’s a very big experience for us to pull in, especially importing and optimising all their photos for mobile. Google can do it easily because it’s all part of the same company. Again, we have not done any sort of deal with them,” Sampat says.
Getting people to use the app: Sampat says that he wants people to instinctively open the app on a Thursday to figure out what he wants to do, but also adds that they does not want to annoy people with notifications. That being the case, the app will also be competing with Google Now which does a pretty good job of decent job of surfacing relevant information based on your location and time and NH7’s InTown app lets one discover new things to do in a city.
He claimed that the service gets 2 million uniques a month across mobile, web, WAP and apps. The TimesCity Android app however has been downloaded by less than 50,000 users, a figure which the company would like to see rise. Zomato has been aggressively expanding its operations across the globe, but Sampat says they are focused on India and will target Indians who have just bought their first smartphone. He refused to reveal what the user acquisition cost would be like, but said that they are planning to launch promotional campaigns for the app soon, that won’t be restricted to Times properties.
Monetisation: There is no monetisation option in the app as of now, but the company uses sponsored search and listings on the website. It needs to be noted that the company could make revenues from table and movie reservations in the future once those features are added, apart from using paid trending topics (like Twitter). However, Sampat says that they are not looking at monetising at all and are only looking at getting the mobile experience right at the moment.