As a part of our #Outlook14 series, we asked heads of online food listing & delivery companies – JustEat, Zomato, FoodPanda, Times City and DeliveryChef about their focus areas for 2014, and the challenges that the online food listing & delivery ecosystem needs to address.

MediaNama: Which according to you were the top developments and roadblocks with respect to the food listing/delivery segment in 2013? Why?

Ritesh Dwivedy, JustEat.in

– Increase in awareness about the potential of internet among restaurateurs.
– The funding in last couple of years in chain restaurants like Mast Kalandar, Kaati Zone and Wangs Kitchen have made them invest  in technology to address their marketing or operational challenges.
– This has had a rub off impact on restaurants in unorganized sector and they have started looking at us as technology enabler helping to smooth the home delivery part of business.
– One of the main challenges is maintaining the menu prices updated. This is unlike a listing site which can get away with older menus.
– With the petrol/diesel price hikes and food inflation shooting up, restaurants have revised the prices much more frequently this year than previous years.

Aditi Kapur, DeliveryChef

– 2013 saw an influx of new restaurants, many in the QSR format with lots of choice and competitive pricing.

Deepinder Goyal, Zomato

– With the Indian population’s growing fascination with smart phones, the food listing and delivery segment has grown immensely.
– The last couple of years have seen a significant rise of young professionals with high disposable incomes. Eating out has become a popular choice for this demographic, which has in turn reinforced the need for a restaurant discovery service such as ours.
– One major roadblock has been in terms of keeping users constantly engaged. With the addition of the social layers on the website, the level of our user engagement has definitely gone up.

Miten Sampat, Business Head,TimesCity.com

– Growth of smartphones and a deeper penetration of social networks has led to a massive growth in conversation around food and places to eat.

– The palate of Indian’s has matured to a point where a critical mass of people have become discerning foodies, and this is a great development for sites like TimesCity and others.

– The biggest challenge continues to be around recommendations and knowing what is going on in your city.

Rohit Chadda, MD and Co-Founder, Foodpanda.in

– More people opting for a screen (desktop/ laptop/ mobile) vs calling

– More people now prefer to pay in advance (online payment), which now is not possible in most of the delivery-focused restaurants

– Many new restaurants opening up with a delivery-first mentality

– Older restaurants still skeptical about online food delivery

– Since the restaurant industry is very unorganized in India, operational delays is a major roadblock

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MediaNama: What has changed from 2012 to 2013? How?

Ritesh Dwivedy, JustEat.in

– One thing we have noticed in 2013 is that the segment of restaurateurs with “Delivery first, Dine-in second” mentality is increasing rapidly. It is understandable since the delivery orders have reduced operational cost and help in boosting the EBIT of stores.

Aditi Kapur, DeliveryChef

– One major change we’ve seen from 2012 to 2013 is people prefer to order in much more than dining out.
– The phone is becoming less of a telephonic conversation instrument and more of an app distribution platform. There’s now an app for everything – from ordering food to counting your walking steps in a day.

Deepinder Goyal, Zomato

– Indians, over the past year, have shown a keen interest and a marked shift towards using internet and mobile platforms as compared to offline options.
– With the rise in internet use from home, weekends have become heavy traffic days for Zomato.

Miten Sampat, Business Head,TimesCity.com

– A critical mass of digitally savvy Indian’s have become discerning foodies, and they are using the web & their mobile devices to figure out where to eat. This is a significant shift compared to last year, and when you compare traffic growth across the top-5 sites in the domain you will see at least a high double digit growth rate.

Rohit Chadda, MD and Co-Founder, Foodpanda.in

– Awareness – In 2012, online ordering was relatively new and it was difficult to convince partner restaurants. But now both the consumers & the partners are aware of it.

– More & more restaurants now see the importance of web presence

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MediaNama: Which are the consumption patterns (online & mobile) that you observed in 2013?

Ritesh Dwivedy, JustEat.in

– The mobile app orders have shown a doubling month on month. Android obviously leads the pack.
– Also, the reluctance of Indian consumers for online payment transactions has thawed. It only helps when the food deliveries is low ticket, low involvement purchase.

Aditi Kapur, DeliveryChef

– From what we’ve seen online, Pizzas seem to be the flavour of the year, being the most ordered in item, followed by Chinese Food & Rolls.

Deepinder Goyal, Zomato

– People are now viewing and accessing information and consuming content anytime, anywhere, on-the-go, on multiple devices. And, companies are focused now more than ever on accommodating and building their growing mobile- and online-centric user base.
– Consumers are today spending as much time on mobile as they are on desktops and laptops. This has created more opportunity for consumer service providers to engage with consumers.
– Local mobile is expected to become an area of increased competition in the coming years.

Miten Sampat, Business Head,TimesCity.com

– Whether it be mobile apps, or the mobile web, our traffic and engagement measures have surprised us in a positive manner. Users are increasingly discovering food, nightlife, and events on the go and the mobile device is the best platform for this.

Rohit Chadda, MD and Co-Founder, Foodpanda.in

Web: Mobile ratio was 80:20 (traffic & transactions)

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MediaNama: What kind of transition have consumers made from offline to online in 2013? Why? What are your observations?

Ritesh Dwivedy, JustEat.in

– 2013 has been a watershed year in online food ordering behavior. Last year, phone (offline) orders were close to 30%. With incentives on online orders and UI changes to make online ordering faster, we have got it reduced to 1%.

Aditi Kapur, DeliveryChef

– We’ve seen consumers far more likely to pay online using their credit/ debit/ ATM cards & Netbanking. Earlier, even when transacting online, people preferred to pay cash on delivery. But 2013 has brought with it a slew of solutions through which customers can save their card details on secure cloud based servers and hence have begun to prefer transacting online.

Deepinder Goyal, Zomato

– People have started exploring and spending more time in the digital space. With the increase in mobile and internet users, companies have more options available in the online space in terms of marketing and engaging with users.

Miten Sampat, Business Head,TimesCity.com

– While the mass consumer base still continues to be offline, a good chunk of users have abandoned traditional media when it comes to food discovery and are relying on sites like ours, blogs, and social networks to get recommendations.

Rohit Chadda, MD and Co-Founder, Foodpanda.in

– Awareness – More people are now aware of online ordering.

– Convenience – People find it more convenient as they can choose from a wider variety of restaurants & also pay online.

– We have a good repeat rate. Most customers tend to come back again because they find it very easy & convenient. They can save multiple addresses to their account, their previous orders are saved.

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MediaNama: What are the likely trends that you expect to see in 2014? Why?

Ritesh Dwivedy, JustEat.in

– Price comparison and review sites will be more popular.
– Mobile orders should reach 50% of our orders in next 15-18 months.
– Though getting good talent in startups will remain tough, but it should should get a little easier, given the coverage they have been getting from media.

Aditi Kapur, DeliveryChef

– We are betting on the mobile trend to deepen in 2014 along with the tastes of people becoming more experimental and open to trying different things in the food space.

Deepinder Goyal, Zomato

– Internet will pave the way for interactive and social experiences for the food listing and delivery segment.
– 2014 will see the growth of technologies that will continue tapping into offline behaviors to eventually change the way we ‘search’ for food.
– Video, social and content marketing are going to grow immensely and of course everything will be real-time. Companies will aim at engaging with consumers and focus on making them their brand ambassadors.

Rohit Chadda, MD and Co-Founder, Foodpanda.in

– The restaurant marketing is opening up. From a standard Mughlai Chinese Continental herd, we’ve moved on to cuisines from every nook n corner. With more restaurants, newer cuisines, it would be interesting to see the consumer behavior. For, instance you wouldn’t have imagined sushi getting delivered at your doorstep 10 years ago. But, now we have some really good Japanese food joints.

– Similarly, we’re expecting more & more region-based, cuisine-based delivery joints in 2014.

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MediaNama: What are the challenges in the food listing/delivery segment that would need to be addressed in 2014?

Ritesh Dwivedy, JustEat.in

– Unorganized sector is 70% of the total restaurant industry and there is need of training and education to bring them up in professionalism. Making them realize that they are in the service industry, where customer centricity is paramount, is a process and not an event.

Aditi Kapur, DeliveryChef

– I think a large part of the unorganised food segment on the supply side will need to think about upgrading infrastructure – their PoS, internet connectivity, systems in place to enable order tracking, data analysis & reporting.

Deepinder Goyal, Zomato

– Keeping users engaged and maintaining a rock-solid content platform are important aspects that will need to be addressed in 2014.

Miten Sampat, Business Head,TimesCity.com

– In 2014, we wish that more and more merchants recognize a need to engage with online discovery and fulfillment partners.

– In addition, for delivery & other fulfillment models to work more efficiently, we see a need for smooth mobile payments and wallet style applications across major mobile platforms. 

Rohit Chadda, MD and Co-Founder, Foodpanda.in

– We’re planning to expand to tier 2 cities. So the major challenge would be to create online ordering awareness as the online market isn’t as developed as in metro cities.

Note: Answers have been edited for for brevity