Zomato’s now banking on a visual feast to woo customers

A twist on food.
A twist on food.
Image: Twitter/Zomato
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One of India’s biggest food tech names is betting that video streaming will help it keep more users glued to its ecosystem.

Starting yesterday (Sept. 16), Zomato started offering over-the-top (OTT) services on its app. The food aggregator has 18 original shows lined up over the next three months.

The new feature includes three- to 15-minute videos across segments such as shows, recipes, and Sneak Peek restaurant stories. Over 2,000 videos, including Zomato Originals, will be available to stream in India, while Sneak Peek and recipe videos can be accessed anywhere in the world.

“Content has always been at the heart of verticals like food and travel. Users research, read and watch a lot of content in both verticals before and after they transact,” Durga Raghunath, senior vice president of growth at Zomato, told Quartz. “Our learning from Sneak Peek and external data encouraged us to expand our video offering to include our version of native original shows around food (short and genre-based), recipes and other formats.”

For Zomato, a restaurant listing, rating and review platform with over 70 million monthly active users, along with a delivery portal, video “seemed like a natural progression,” Raghunath added.

Food first

It’s a smart move to adhere to just food-related content and not branch out, say experts.

“Anything else would plunge them into competition with platforms that have deeper pockets, greater expertise, and as a result, much better content to offer,” said Sunder Aaron, general manager of the Toronto-based content company QYOU’s India arm.

After all, there are giants like Hotstar, Netflix and Amazon trying to woo India. The segment is also heavily saturated with myriad players like ALTBalaji, Zee5 Premium, Eros Now, Viu, Voot, SonyLIV, and more.

Zomato’s clear that it’s a food-tech platform first and not looking to compete with the Hotstars and Netflixes of the world. “For us, it is clearly marketing and engagement dollar and not an OTT investment. We spent a lot of time coming up with the formats and economics that work for us in food content,” said Raghunath.

The idea is to make ordering in more of a habit than it already is.

“Customers open the Zomato app only when they want to order food or check out a restaurant. This need probably arises once or twice a week, Kranti Gada, chief offering officer of the content house Shemaroo Entertainment, said. “But the consumer might visit the app every day if he gets hooked to the show or content. Other services can then be offered to the consumer.”

The celebrity factor

Food is increasingly a major topic of entertainment and discussion, especially among the youth.

“There are YouTube food channels with millions of subscribers and the segment has fantastic growth potential,” Chandan Bagwe, founder and managing director of the digital advertising agency C Com Digital, pointed out.

“If you look at the number of television channels on food and also Instagram, where one of the significant areas of people are sharing is food,” Harish HV, an independent startup analyst, concurred.

Hiring recognisable, relatable faces for shows is an effective way to break the content clutter on the web. Piggybacking on the popularity of celebrities, Zomato will have a better chance of increasing visibility, too.

This is the lineup the company has announced so far:

At some point, this could become a money-maker, too, for Zomato.

Gettin’ that bread

Zomato itself doesn’t have a vivid game plan for monetisation yet, Raghunath said, but experts can already see a variety of options to tap.

“It can start monetising content by sharing it with other platforms for a fee, doing special shows for restaurants and chefs who pay (sponsorships), including product placements” and more, Harish HV said.

If Zomato can scale videos successfully, it could monetise its premium content “by offering it a bundled package, along with Zomato Gold subscription in future,” Hanish Bhatia, a senior analyst at Hong Kong-based Counterpoint Research, said, adding that it could also “open its platform for UGC (user-generated content) allowing users as well as restaurants to post recipes and dining experiences videos, which will “help the company achieve much higher engagement levels.”