EP #3: Acing Personalization-led Growth Like DineOut, in the Foodtech Space

EP #3: Acing Personalization-led Growth Like DineOut, in the Foodtech Space

About this Podcast


As part of our #PersonalizationThursdays series where we discuss the impact of personalization and predictive recommendations across key industries, we caught up with Shalini Sinha, Growth Marketing Manager at India’s largest dining out and restaurant tech platform: DineOut! Shalini shares insights on the following:

  • Growth of the evolving foodtech and restaurant tech industry in India
  • Major user engagement and retention challenges that DineOut tackles
  • The application of complex ML algorithms used by DineOut to deliver contextual recommendations to individual users at the right time
  • The future of mobile marketing driven be predictive analytics and dynamic recommendation engines

Tune in to learn how foodtech brands can uplift conversions and marketing ROI with the power of personalization!


Episode Transcripts

Pradyut Hande (Host): “Hi guys, welcome to a brand new episode of The Martechno Beat, a specially curetted podcast series powered by Netcore Smartech. I am your host Pradyut Hande and as I mentioned in the previous episode the next few episodes are going to be heavily focused around how business is leveraging the power of personalization to deliver extremely conducive satisfactory customer experience at scale. I am so happy to present to you our guest speaker for today’s episode Miss Shalini Shinde, group marketing manager at Dineout. Welcome, Shalini.”

Shalini Shinde: “Hi Pradyut, hi it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Pradyut Hande: “And before we begin, you know I just want to tell our listeners a bit of context around what Dineout is all about. I believe it’s India’s largest dining and restaurant tech platform. So without further ado let’s jump into the podcast at large and you know Shalini to begin with you can probably share some insight, some inputs on Dineout’s growth story, where they have come from, and where they happen to find themselves in the market today.”


Shalini Shinde: “Sure Pradyut, so you know Dineout started in 2012. It was born with the idea that you know we can help the restaurant manage their operation a lot in a better and efficient way and help customers to discover a restaurant in a quick and easy way.”

Pradyut Hande: “Ok”

Shalini Shinde: “The whole idea was started in 2012, so the opportunity back day was to grab on both on the consumer and restaurant side, when I say the consumer side if I have to say according to the statistics there were 5 billion covers of instant happening people going out for Dineout annually right from the consumer side and from the restaurant side I remember the latest MRI report whereas there are 1.6 million restaurants and approx half a million are in the organized sector so that big opportunity we have in a Dineout and food tech industry we have so let me put a dollar figure to it that’s a very interesting point to know right Dineout as a business spends 7 times more than the bollywood industry. The bollywood industry is approx 8 to 9 thousand crore, and Dineout business is about sixty thousand crores that’s one of the very interesting figures of this business right now, we talk about the frequency right, let’s be very India centric as Dineout is in India, so I’ll speak to India centric numbers, in terms of frequency also the first one right now is CAT, second is jewelry and third is textile as a business An average Indian spends more on Dineout that entertainment that’s simply any user is going out for entertainment for going for a movie on having some fun or for shopping there and up eating outside and coming back that is around 4 to 5 times in a month and average Is around 2K per user compared to 200 in a delivery sector”

Pradyut Hande: “Right, correct.”

Shalini Shinde:So over the years we have evolved. We started off with just the discovery of restaurant meeting users on the B2B side giving more facilities to the restaurant in the entire journey right we realized we are not on the payment side.”

Pradyut Hande: “Right”

Shalini Shinde: “We came up with dine pay right now we are in 20 cities within 45000 restaurants across 40 million annually every year.”

Pradyut Hande: “Wow that’s an incredible growth story this was such an unorganized space to be in you know people talk about food tech they think about  large scale like Zomato and Swiggy  you guys are also the part of the food tech industry  and redefining how dining  is done especially with regards to the urban and semi-urban customer today.”

Shalini Shinde:That’s true that’s true even not that  you know the thing  people perceive  that you know  when you want to use dine out it’s the early reservation you have to make a plan and  do a reservation  then you go out  then you save that much.”

Pradyut Hande: “Right.”

Shalini Shinde: “We have a walk-in product gourmet passport so we find out the segment of users who actually makes a very instant plan.  Probably you are out and you are thinking let’s have food  and then you want to go home  so we have a gourmet passport  you just have to go in the restaurant  and tell them that you are a government passport subscriber and you get one plus one.”

Pradyut Hande: “Ok”

Shalini Shinde: “So we are into that sector also we have tried to evolve like when a user is going out for Dineout the Major focus for us at Dineout is creating value for every interaction when you are going out for Dineout.”

Pradyut Hande: “Ok, correct. Makes sense, It from you know, the customers who plan their outing on and also encompassing those customers who you know God without a plan. So there’s something for everyone there.”

Shalini Shinde: “correct.”

Pradyut Hande: “Thank you so much for shedding light on Dineout’s journey and where they find themselves today and kudos to you on making all of that happen across both the website and app platforms and just building on my previous question, you know, while customer acquisition a lot of companies spend major bucks and dollars acquiring customers. I’m sure Dineout has its own user engagement and retention challenges by itself. So it’ll be great if you could shed some light on how Dineout goes about tackling some of those challenges.”

Shalini Shinde:  “Definitely Pradyut, one thing you mentioned is the cost; definitely that’s the bigger challenge. You know on an industry level acquisition of a new customer cost 6 to 7 times more than retaining a customer which is in Dineout also, right and one more interesting thing that I want to share is the probability of selling an existing customer is sixty to seventy percent compared to the probability of selling to a new customer, which is there in Dineout again. So you know this one thing using churn rate when a user is acquired that is one of the big challenges that we are trying to tackle and the second thing is how to reduce this churn rate, what kind of interaction we have to do what kind of engagement that we have to do to understand the longer you retain your customer, the more chance you have to engage them on a deeper level. but how long and what to do what to show them, How to build that thing that we care for you and understand you.”
Pradyut Hande: “correct, establishing that emotional brand connects.”

Shailini Shinde: “Correct definitely true and ultimately driving that value for the company and with these two we are trying to build up loyalty for us. Right now the competition is so tough, there are a lot of players giving equal price, equal offers. Building royalty is the major challenge that is there with us.”

Pradyut Hande: “Ok, ok. Okay, okay, that makes sense and you know in such an environment as we’ve seen across industries. It’s so critical for Brands to personalize the entire customer experience right? Because one way to build platform stickiness or platform loyalty is by offering them exactly what they want. So if you could tell us how Dineout goes about, you know driving personalized Journeys Personalized customer experiences at scale that would be great.”

Shalini Shinde: “Awesome, so let me give you an example that we have a flagship event GIRF great India restaurant festival, it’s the only festival you know that gives flat fifty percent off.”

Pradyut Hande: “Right, I have been one of the beneficiaries of that.”

Shalini Shinde: “Ok. So you know, let me give you an example. Last year we did GIRF two times in a year and we saw 154 percent growth in our GNP.”

Pradyut Hande: “Ok. Wow”

Shalini Shinde:  “So let me tell you how we dealt with these 3 problems that were acquisition, activation, and retention, and then company reference and you need to understand the user. So take for example I am just telling you GIRF is there get flat 50 percent off, how many times you will see that message again and again and this is done I don’t want to go out, you know what is there I am not getting my the transition phase from adoption to retention gets longer. How to reduce that? So there we started playing with personalized messages, through our CRM campaign, through our digital marketing campaign. The kind of search that you have done in the past, the kind of restaurant that you have searched. We probe all and over around it and we were trying to search the kind of restaurants you have liked in the past then sending those kinds of restaurants name, sending those kinds of offers, sending those kinds of cuisine and personalizing it and we saw almost 3x increase in our CTR than definitely to conversion through our CRM. We felt that personalization played an important role in that stickiness, creating that ambiance when a user is interacting with your app that he should understand completely and how you will be able to understand only through his past behavior. So there is this one thing that we played during GIRF that we tried to figure out, so this one thing whenever we do a campaign like this we divide it into two so one is more of emotions based campaign and one is more of journey based campaign.”

Pradyut Hande: “Ok. Great.”

Shalini Shinde:  “So the campaign I mentioned was more of a promotion based, more about when the user is interacting that time it drops off, so that’s the kind of campaign we started off.”

Pradyut Hande: “Ok. Right”

Shalini Shinde: “We actually divided our segments into seven segments. Right so say, I know you are a loyal user I understand that you have been using Dineout and you understand our proposition and we offer more promotions as compared to the user who has used Dineout once in three months or probably a user who hasn’t used Dineout at all or made a reservation. So I wasn’t focusing the campaign on one kind of campaign for all kinds of users. So I need to have different kinds of segments to engage different kinds of users, to get the hold of segments, and have that kind of growth. At that time we started developing a trigger campaign understanding our user base, how they have been, what the behavior was previously. We were running multiple growth hack campaigns to see how they will be reacting and finally converting the user.”

Pradyut Hande: “Ok. Right.”


Shalini Shinde:  “So these are the major I feel that there is to feel that stickiness around your app to help us a lot to achieve those increasing GNP overall.”


Pradyut Hande: “Right, that makes so much sense because at the end of the day the bottom line for any brand especially at least in the food tech industry is the better you understand your customer behavior. The better you can tailor make your campaigns the entire customer experience that’s precisely what bills stickiness and retention in the long run. So yes that makes a lot of sense.”

Shalini Shinde: “No, not just that even on the work front as a brand we must be concerned for the cost also.”

Pradyut Hande: “correct that’s true.”

Shalini Shinde: “One point I mentioned in the challenges right probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70 percent retention from there and majorly most of the marketers miss out on that point you know retaining the customer in the right way at the right time with the right kind of campaign that is one thing definitely.”

Pradyut Hande: “That definitely makes a lot of sense and while we are on the topic of personalization. I just wanted to pick your brains on how Dineout goes about, you know, providing those personalized recommendations to existing users to get them to use the app or the website more often. So if you could share some insights on how dine out goes about delivering, creating, and delivering those personalized recommendations.”

Shalini Shinde: “so you know at the back end we have developed models and we have almost segmented like 4 or 5 kinds of segments made a lot of clusters and clusters we have studied at the backend through ever and further actually tried to understand what our customer base actually wants and based on that from our backend even on the app and even on communication we are sending kind of analysis for the market. So say I fall in the cluster where people have browsed around 10 to 15 times but I have never done a reservation. But the kind of browsing I have done is probably about a particular area or locality or about a particular City or a cuisine a particular kind of USP have picked up Based on that we have build a model and actually able to figure out users have search out for this particular kind of restaurant in the past and we should focus on these kinds of restaurants. We are doing a lot of testing on our end also that how the model is growing or not if we are not restricted to our app only on the whole situation.  Also moving on to the communication also the mail we are sending and notification we are sending on the digital marketing front and the kind of restaurant personalization we are doing through digital marketing. So we are doing this model on our end.”

Pradyut Hande: “That makes a lot of sense again. I just am emphasizing the point that in today’s world personalization is not restricted to one channel or one platform. It has to happen at so many different digital touchpoints across the entire customer journey.”

Shalini Shinde: “Correct, correct, and one more thing, you know. Not just that. It’s more like we have to understand a customer’s life cycle, the user comes to the app. Try to help them adopt the platform first. Try to retain the user, make them Advocate for your brand. In this life cycle, there are a lot of chances where a user may drop off. You should be able to understand the whole life cycle. You should be able to pick where the user might drop off and you should be able to pick them back.”

Pradyut Hande: “No two users react the same way and it is so important to understand their individual customer journey.”

Shalini Shinde: “Definitely, that’s true. And even you cannot treat the whole audience like one. You cannot have one offer. That all the users are dropping off. One classic example here was during GIRF itself we did a lot of growth campaigns. During GIRF we set up different offers for different kinds of users. We have actually experimented a lot. Like for one set of users we were giving more promo codes. Because we understand that they were not using Dineout pay. So probably he will first have to explore what Dineout pay is and understand the offer. And that actually made me lose some time. Instead of directly putting a direct instant discount. We understand, if a user understands to dine out, Then he will be free and understand the promo code. And then he’ll be able to use it. And here comes a cost structure on our end. How much are we controlling the burn?  And how much do you need to put into customer acquisition cost?  How we will be able to optimize campaigns and optimize the burn rate. Not only from a user point of view, but from a business point of view these are very important points.”


Pradyut Hande: “Correct. At the end of the day in a business you have to strike the right balance, right? You can’t keep chasing growth strategies. They’re not showing you enough returns. But at the same time, you also want to keep your costs in check or so operations in check so that you’re delivering value to your customers. But you know, it also needs strategic sense. Alright on that note. I’d like to ask you my final and favorite question. Actually that I asked a lot of marketers on this podcast, you know, what are your thoughts on the future? Because at the end of the day it’s about delivering value. It’s about delivering personalized customer experiences. This industry shapes how you see Future market trends?”

Shalini Shinde: “Really interesting question. So you know as we mentioned throughout our entire conversation, we understand that the users are very smart.”

Pradyut Hande: “And they continue to become very smart.”

Shalini Shinde: “Exactly with the type of competition and everything. There are very knowledge-based users right now, especially when you are having operations in a Metro City. They expect you to give value, and they know the brand cares about you. And for that, we start using AI. In a better way, they somewhere expect you to give suggestions and even after selling for now. Through our, AI-enabled there is one interesting thing. I have noticed when the brands are moving towards curetted AI suggestions over a deeper level Simply showing ads based on Victor analysis isn’t enough anymore. And probably in the near future, it wouldn’t be. It would be more interesting to understand. Whether a user is coming emotionally from the conversation they had with the brand in the past and then recommend a suggestion to the user. That would be really interesting to see. In the future of mobile marketing, there will be more emphasis on recommendations on past behavior. But you know to understand the user emotion that time and then targeting the ads based on emotion. I am not sure about that but it will be very interesting for the next five to seven years, but I’m sure we will be moving in this part of analytics.”

Pradyut Hande: “That’s a very interesting take. You know in all my conversations we have so many marketers across the world. That’s become like this common theme that’s come out, you know, while brands are leveraging AI and ML, and reducing dependence on human intervention. I feel that every marketer every brand has to ensure that you know, they don’t come across as non-organic they take into it account that what their end-user is actually feeling because the behavior will tell  so much but I think if you can gather what the user actually feeling that makes the entire experience  far more personalized.”

Shalini Shinde: “This will definitely be there because our users are going to be very smart in the next five to seven years, for sure.

Pradyut Hande: “Alright that’s a very interesting day I think getting some very key solid insights from an industry that I feel does not get any due recognition in India at least. Thank you so much for joining me, Shalini. It’s been a pleasure hosting you.”

Shalini Shinde: “Thank you Pradyut, thank you so much.”


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