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Summary:

IIT Delhi graduates Deepinder Goyal (26) and Pankaj Chaddah (24) just quit their consulting jobs at Bain & Co. They will now focus on growin…

Deepinder Goyal (left) and Pankaj Chaddah

IIT Delhi graduates Deepinder Goyal (26) and Pankaj Chaddah (24) just quit their consulting jobs at Bain & Co. They will now focus on growing a website they started in 2008 that now has operations in three cities and 80,000 unique visitors a month.

Goyal and Chaddah started *FoodieBay.com* in July 2008. The site serves up detailed information, menus, ratings and reviews for more than 4500 restaurants in Mumbai, Kolkata and the National Capital Region (Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida). In January next year, the site will also add Bangalore to its coverage area.

The site had a precursor. Foodlet.com, which Goyal started while still at IIT-D, allowed users to place their orders on the site for a number of participating restaurants. Soon he realized the idea wouldn’t work, Goyal says. “When we had to order food for ourselves, we would just look up the number on the site and place the order on the phone. Even we weren’t using our product,” Goyal says.

His takeaway from the experience was that people don’t want a middleman between them and the restaurant. “People sometimes want to give specific instructions about their food. But before ordering, we figured they like to have all the information about the food,” Goyal says.

Foodiebay was launched in early 2008 with just that focus–as much information as possible about the food that you are about to order. So the site has complete menus, contact information, ratings and reviews by the editorial team and other standard food guide information such as card acceptance, home delivery and average price per person etc.

The site took off immediately. “It caught on very quickly, thanks also to a lot of media coverage we received early on,” Goyal says.

While food guides typically have the contact information and recommendations, they don’t have the menus, they don’t come for free and one is impossible to find when you are about to order, especially at work. A large part of Foodiebay visitors are from offices, Goyal says, adding that the site’s unique hits are somewhat depressed because of multiple people visiting from the same office IP.

He is now opening up reviews and ratings to users. “We are in the process of introducing many social features to the site,” Goyal said.

Currently, the site carries advertising from several restaurants, but he says that puts pressure on editorial independence. “Every now and then, there is a suggestion that you gives us a good review and better ratings, and we give you advertising. We politely refuse,” Goyal says.

He has a “very different idea” to monetize the site, he says, without compromising the editorial voice. But that requires deployment of some technology and that requires investment. The two partners have just about completed an investor presentation seeking about $1 million in funding. “We will soon start knocking on the doors of investors.”

The site was almost a community effort, Goyal says. Many friends from IIT helped out, many continue to work for them part time, without pay. “I have no clue why they work for us,” Goyal says, laughing, and evidently proud of what he is building. His wife and sister also helps out. When the site started in Delhi, they would go to every nook and cranny in Delhi to collect information on food outlets big and small. “It would be a big picnic with friends and family. We would collect the info and the menus and also eat at these places.” In other cities, a combination of volunteers and paid employees now do the scouring.

But how unique is their content, and how difficult is it for someone to duplicate the effort and become effective competition overnight, I ask. Or if a big media company that already has a food guide, decides to build a food portal, couldn’t they do it very easily, given that they already have most of the content?

“It’s not easy, trust me,” Goyal says. “Yes, if a big media company wanted to use their existing content on the net, they can. But they don’t have the menus. It would take anyone at least a year and a half to build something like this even if they have a lot of resources. Far easier to buy out an existing player, isn’t it?” he asks, helpfully offering me a peek into his alternative business plan.

May be somebody will take the hint.

  1. Interesting. I thought they were already VC backed or something.

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  2. Gurkeerat Sandhu Thursday, November 5, 2009

    having a menu database is a great idea…but as you rightly said not something that a Burrp or an Indiatimes will take much time to replicate..and why would it take a year..one just needs to use foodiebay's menu database and get some interns to type out what's mentioned in the scanned images (and then make it search worthy as well).Anyways…all the best dudes…guess you should do some social media stuff and get some scale (4k/day is nothing) before the big guys wake up.

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  3. Burrp already has a ton of menus and I think are way ahead of the game when it comes to food reccos, reviews, ratings etc.

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  4. I think Burrp and Foodiebay are completely different models. Burrp is a Web 2.0 model – where the content is not moderated at all. There are a lot of restaurants on Burrp which do not even exist anymore. Moreover, they do not really have a ton of menus as someone mentioned above. To start with, they do not have Dominos – why would someone not have a Domino's menu? Also, Burrp has lost focus – it started as a restaurant website. Now it has hairdressers online. I am wondering if they were getting more revenue from hairdressers.

    Foodiebay's content, according to me is the most updated one in the current lot of such sites. And they update their menus quite often for that matter (most of the menus I checked right now are not more than 2-3 months old).

    Also, I run a couple of websites myself. 80k is quite a lot of traffic. Of course, you cannot compare it to the indiatimes etc.. of the world .. but it is quite good and should not be easy for any newcomer to achieve.

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  5. Gurkeerat Sandhu Thursday, November 5, 2009

    @Ankur – Agree on Burrp having lost its focus…but you can't deny the fact that it is by far the largest player in this category. 80k isn't bad for a start-up but its not enough from the point of view of deterring competition (specially the large media houses who can easily achieve 5 times of this traffic in 1/5th the time).This is a good classifieds category and should interest most newspaper websites.

    @Sruthijit -There's been some talk of Time Out launching a full-fledged website…any idea ?

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  6. Why you all ,kept on criticizing the good work initiated by them or in other words IITians. @gurkeerat ..if you know so much about the market then why dont you start your own business.
    But no,beacuse start ups need commitment ,sincerity and above all,guts .and it seems you have nothing .Thats why you are sitting in front of your desktop ,busy in writing crap.

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  7. @Gurkeerat

    Yes, from the outside, Burrp looks like the largest player. I think that is because it has been around longer. However, I just peeped into the alexa data for burrp and foodiebay. Here are my observations – seems like a lot of traffic (78%) for burrp is coming to tv.burrp.com and not the burrp that we generally know. Scaling their traffic by that margin and assuming that they have only 22% of the traffic coming to their classifieds business, it makes their restaurant business smaller than Foodiebay (although marginally). If you also consider that Burrp has a lot of other traffic (hairdressers for example), Foodiebay will easily emerge to be more than Burrp.

    In short, Foodiebay seems to have a done a good job so far. Their traffic seems to be more than the restaurant section of Burrp. However, all these websites (including Burrp) and very tiny if compared to the huge potential India holds in itself. The future may throw up some interesting twists!

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  8. Armchair Analyst Thursday, November 5, 2009

    This comment is directed towards other armchair analysts like me* –

    @Gurkeerat Sandhu – burrp already has a lot of menus and catalogues, not only of eateries but also of jewelry shops, health clubs etc. Most of the menus at burrp seem to be uploaded by the business owners themselves. So there is definitely a business owner engagement on the site.

    @Ankur Saragawi – burrp depends on its community to help maintain the site. I am one the users who regularly flags dead places, incorrect phone numbers etc. "Also Burrp has lost focus" – I'd beg to differ. In the real world out there, they call it diversification. So when ITC started making shampoos along with cigarettes, it was called a diversified business strategy by many a people.

    @Fck Gurkeerat – What's IIT got to do with it? You're busy writing crap as well and you're a coward also.

    @Ankur Sarawagi – What're you smoking dude? Burrp's restaurant business is smaller than foodiebays? Great insight, genius but I think you're analysis is full of crap.

    *I've been a burrp user for more than 3 years now and even received their goodie bag recently for writing kick ass reviews. So in that sense, I know a wee bit more about them than ya'll. peace out.

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  9. Armchair Analyst Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Ah, one more thing –
    @Ankur Saragawi – "Now it has hairdressers online. I am wondering if they were getting more revenue from hairdressers." – Well let's say that might be the case, what problem do you have with that?

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  10. Sorry Armchair Analyst. I seem to have offended you. All I was trying to present was data (by a third party – not cooked up at all). Not perceptions based on being happy after being sent a goodie bag.

    Also, ITC launched all its separate business under different brands. That is called diversification. Imagine selling Atta with a 'Navy Cut' brand. Hope you get the point. Happy to talk to you live if you need it.

    Regarding hairdressers, I *think* they are not making any money out of them. Business expansions should be made on basis of business logic which I am *wondering* they didn't apply. So sorry if that hurts you.

    Good job with the reviews. Try contacting Foodiebay – they might even pay you. Then you can buy a lot of goodie bags :)

    Enjoy!

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