DotPe entered the Indian restaurant space two years ago to help hotel owners' setup digital services without the need to sign up on Zomato and Swiggy. While these aggregators are now ubiquitous, DotPe allows restaurants to offer a far more customised, brand-led experience. Users get catalogues in the house style, options to place orders, and pay online, all at a much lower commission than Zomato and Swiggy. And this approach definitely seems to have its adherents as is proved by Swiggy announcing a new direct delivery model a few days ago.
The friction between restaurants and aggregators is not new — back in 2015, many restaurant owners told Gadgets 360 that they wanted to find an alternative. And attempts have been made in the past too, to help bring this change, so what has changed over the years? Simply put, some restaurants feel that the relationship with aggregators is becoming far too unequal.
A recent Hindu report suggests that where DotPe asks for 1 to 3 percent commission per order, Zomato and Swiggy charge 20 percent plus GST. Another big reason for restaurants to choose DotPe over Zomato and Swiggy is consumer data, the company says. Within a year, DotPe says it has processed over 6 million orders already for over 20,000 restaurants across India. It plans to bring in more product innovation in the next few years to help restaurants sell directly, sell more, and scale further.
Expert opinion: TechArc chief analyst, Faisal Kawoosa says, “New apps in such businesses come with a less fee charging model to on board. But at the same time, while this does get partners, what is critical is to get the order bookings, which in this instance Zomato and Swiggy are doing well, and restaurants won't mind paying more as long as they get orders consistently. In short while it's a good hook, it does not ensure success.”
Gadgets 360 spoke to Anurag Gupta, Co-Founder, DotPe to know a bit more about the company's journey so far and its future plans.
1. What were you doing before you began DotPe?
DotPe is my first stint as an entrepreneur. Prior to this, I was the Vice President at PayU, the leading payments company in India. I spent over six years in the company, for which India is a core market, before deciding to start my own entrepreneurial venture with Shailaz and Gyanesh.
2. What inspired you to begin DotPe? Were there any hurdles you faced during the inception process?
In late 2019, Shailaz, Gyanesh, and I met for a cup of coffee. As we waited for the barista to pour the cup of coffee, we looked around and saw a QR code.
An idea was born! What if the QR code was not just for payments but the answer to everything restaurant business-related? What if a simple technology could save time and money for businesses and customers alike?
From there, we realised that the basic concept of digitally enabling businesses, big or small, from ordering to payments and feedback, at a very reasonable price was missing in most markets. So, we launched a product that solves this problem.
3. What was it like in the first year of being in business? What are your key learnings from the early days?
Shortly after we launched DotPe, the pandemic started. So there were multiple learnings we gathered along the way. In the context of FnB businesses, we realised that restaurants needed an entire digital ecosystem in a single place. While the Scan-Order-Pay QR codes helped manage contactless ordering at the time, they needed tech to serve many more use cases like pick-up, delivery, food courts, amongst others. Once we launched the remote ordering options, it was important that we worked on generating demand because discoverability is a challenge for restaurants.
So we solved this by first encouraging restaurants to leverage social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to generate demand from their existing loyal customers and also become more discoverable for new customers through our partnerships with Google Spot, PhonePe Switch, or Paytm Mini. So we've been able to help restaurants manage their entire customer journey- from generating demand to fulfilling those orders.
In the context of retail businesses across other categories, we realised while merchants loved the idea of being able to go online for free through Digital Showroom, they were willing to invest in building their own identity and brand. Even small remote businesses in Rajasthan selling construction materials invested in getting their own website because people now recognise the need to build a brand regardless of their backgrounds. So after perfecting our free offerings, we took learnings from there to introduce our premium offerings that include premium themes, custom domain names, and soon delivery as well.
4. With the market filled with food aggregator apps, how does DotPe look to become a differentiator?
It is undeniable that food aggregator apps have evolved and helped restaurants in their own way. Where DotPe stands out is by giving businesses their own tools to get direct orders to give them control over their business back. We also go far and beyond to tailor the customer experiences for various online and offline use cases. There are no other platforms in the market that have been able to do that and achieve scale the way DotPe has. We provide enterprise-grade tech solutions for the entire landscape of offline-to-online commerce with the sole focus on creating the best value for our merchants.
We are offering digital technologies such as ‘scan-order-pay', curb-side pickup, remote ordering, digital payments, etc. to ensure seamless operations for businesses. This form of contactless commerce is also going to be the way forward. For any further order-related communication, invoicing, feedback, etc. we allow businesses to directly interact and engage with their customers via WhatsApp.
Hence, unlike other online commerce platforms, DotPe also ensures that businesses get to connect with their customers directly and own customer data. By sharing customer data, ordering trends, and other data, DotPe allows businesses to serve their customers better.
5. How was it like sailing through the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis? How did you deal with the challenges of the lockdown? What was the revenue like last year?
Since our organization was built through the pandemic, our products reflect the learnings from this time and are built to help businesses conduct commerce even through a pandemic.
On the FnB front, DotPe's simple measures like options for digital ordering, reducing operational costs during inflation, and providing payment settlements in t+1 days, have helped merchants tremendously during the pandemic. We also helped restaurants with direct delivery that allowed last-mile delivery options so that they can serve as many customers as possible. Interacting with customers directly has given our partner restaurants the power of customer data. This gives them insights to understand which dishes aren't performing well and find strategies to push them. It also helps them know where most of their customer base is located to target their ads better, create a robust business plan, etc.
We provided options for scheduled ordering and subscriptions to help COVID warriors and patients get their meals during these difficult times. They could easily pick subscriptions from nearby restaurants and tiffin service providers and not worry about cooking. This also ensured that local businesses could survive during the pandemic.
We also went a step ahead to expand our partnerships to help local businesses. We expanded our delivery partnerships so that businesses have last-mile order fulfilment. They can fulfil orders from anywhere in the city through a single store. Simultaneously, we helped businesses open multiple avenues for demand generation through our partnerships with consumer platforms like PhonePe, GooglePay, and Paytm. Through PhonePe Switch, Google Spot, and Paytm Mini, businesses can get discovered easily by customers near them.
Within a year, we've processed over 6 million orders already for over 20,000 restaurants across India.
For businesses across all other categories, we have been able to digitally empower them through Digital Showroom. To ensure all businesses have a more meaningful connection with their customers by establishing their brand, we launched premium themes for their online showrooms during the second wave of the pandemic. Merchants can pick from any themes that align with their brand. This becomes an important aspect of establishing customer relationships and recall during the pandemic as one cannot meet the customers directly. In the coming days, we will also be helping them with the delivery of the products. This would give them the complete commerce ecosystem on their phone easily.
Through Digital Showroom merchants are doing monthly transactions worth more than Rs. 38 crores. On the business side, we've seen a 70 percent MoM growth in revenue. Our business model has resulted in a positive gross margin of 35 percent already and we see it growing rapidly. Some of our major restaurant partners include Social, Smokehouse Deli, and Big Chill, and Barista amongst many others.
6. Apart from last-mile delivery and reduced commission, what else does DotPe have to offer to restaurants?
DotPe gives restaurants a complete commerce ecosystem for in-store and remote ordering. Apart from last-mile delivery and reduced commission, DotPe gives restaurants:
7. Do you have any management mantra/ advice that you'd like to share with future entrepreneurs?
If you are passionate about something then make it your hobby. But if you are obsessed with an idea 24x7, that's how you know you need to become an entrepreneur and succeed.
8. What are the big plans for the future? What new features and initiatives can be expected?
In the coming days, we will bring in more product innovation to help merchants sell directly, sell more, and scale easily. We foresee empowering over 70 million merchants to connect with over 1.3 billion potential customers.
9. What is the employee strength? Is DotPe hiring currently?
We currently have a little over 300 team members but are rapidly growing and hiring to meet the fast-evolving needs of the market.