Some time back I happened to start stopping by food blogs and reviews. Online and on Mobile Apps too. Being not a great foodie rather finicky while ordering outside, I grew more inquisitive to what foodies discover in plethora of traditional and fusion foods. Idea was to try out something new yet not spoil my choice of taste. It’s certainly understandable that everyone has a different taste bud yet there was something apparently unbelievable. That was, that all the reviews with goodie goodie pics posted of food had only something good to say about it. Coincidentally, we happened to interview Mr Varun Gupta, Founder & CEO, Clicktable. With an entrepreneurial family, a great business sense and technical education, Varun Gupta has taken the dining experience to next level and made it more genuine and user friendly.
If you like to dine out often and are concerned about the amount of time you spend accessing it while choosing peculiarly your choice of hotel or a bar, then checking out this piece of interview will make you try it for sure.
Did the idea of Clicktable just clicked or was a thoughtful process?
It was a thoughtful process. I was trying to get a reservation at an award-winning restaurant in Delhi for quite some time but all my attempts were unsuccessful. I wondered, why isn’t there an online system which shows table availability to prospective diners to ease the process of making reservations at restaurants. Having spent considerable time in the US and experiencing such portals over there, I thought that this should be good idea for the Indian market and should have an immense potential, given the facts that Indian diners are spending more time on their smartphones than before and the restaurant industry is growing at a healthy rate.
How has your education helped through?
Although I studied computer engineering, I had lost touch of hands-on programming as I was involved in a non-IT related role in my family business for last 10 years. Therefore, I created a small technology team to carry out POCs before we hired the full team for product development. Simultaneously, I also reached out to many restaurants in order to understand their acceptance for a table and reservation management software. The outcomes from the survey helped us to fine-tune our offerings in the software.
Thereafter, we spent almost six months to develop the restaurant facing software that allows restaurants to manage tables, reservations, customer data and events & offers. We named it “Empower” because by using the software, a restaurant is empowered to offer better customer experience to its diners.
We spent roughly a year in selling the Empower app to restaurants in Delhi NCR and simultaneously developed our consumer facing website and mobile apps. Once a threshold number of restaurants were using the Empower app in Delhi NCR, we launched our consumer facing website and apps. We also started operations in Bengaluru and Mumbai subsequently.
Every venture teaches us lessons of life and career. Even failures and mistakes. Giving 10 years of your life to your family business must have a lot to add to your learnings. Please mention few.
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, I was having clear idea of what goes into a business. It ain’t all sunshine and roses in the business field. But the guidance from my family was always there. And when I became an entrepreneur, it didn’t feel like a different ball-game altogether.
Learned that Perseverance and belief in your product are key to success. For me, entrepreneurship requires the willingness, tenacity, and sometimes just sheer guts to not only rise to the challenges, but also accept the lessons that come with it, no matter how difficult.
How different is the concept ClickTable that made it gratifying to you?
We provide a seamless experience for table reservations to diners. Because our consumer website and apps are integrated with the piece of another software that runs at the restaurant, we always have the real-time table availability and hence, the reservations are confirmed in real-time. We have completely bypassed the call-center model in our operations.
Also another thing that makes us very different from all the competition is that we allow only actual diners to review restaurants on our platform. This prevents bloggers and spammers from creating artificial ratings of restaurants like on similar platforms.
– Real time confirmation of reservations for diners
– We only allow actual diners to post reviews on our platform
– CRM solution for restaurants to manage reservations, waitlists and guest data
– Out of the box functionality for promotion of events & offers by restaurants to diners
Our consumer website has been up and running since last three months. As of now, we get roughly 100,000 visitors on our website every month. We recently (last week)launched our mobile apps and are hopeful that we will see more traffic across platforms.
Would you like to comment on any similar or different platform available in market at present?
Before plunging in this venture, we analysed that other players were offering table reservation service but they were using a call-centre based solution for confirming such reservations. Also, they did not offer any software solution to restaurants to manage reservations at the restaurant end. Hence, it was a completely one sided offering with virtually no focus on solving restaurant related issues.
Did you have to arrange funding for your product?
It’s a bootstrapped company
Are you selective in tying up with restaurants & bars?
Yes. We are little selective in associating with restaurants & bars. We are majorly tieing up with 5 star brands where you have difficulty in reservations and you cannot just walk in.
Your opinion on the industry and behaviour of customers
The journey has been good so far. Users, both restaurants and diners, see value in our products.The restaurant user base is diversified in terms of product usage. Not many restaurants use all available modules; they cherry-pick what suits their needs.But we so have many restaurants who swear by our product as the Empower App has eased front desk operations significantly in these restaurants. Consumer website and apps are fairly new in the market but we are getting healthy response from diners on it.
About Varun Gupta: Clicktable is venture of the 33 year old, Varun Gupta, a computer engineer from Purdue University, USA and an MBA from Columbia University, New York. For the last 10 years, he has also been involved in his family business – Kent RO Systems Ltd, the largest water purifier brand in India. The idea clicked to him when he was repeatedly denied a reservation because of unavailability at an award-winning restaurant in South Delhi. Realizing that table availability should be more transparent with prospective diners and finding that nothing like such existed in the Indian market, he decided to do it himself.