Food has always been one of the greatest passions for Indians but never has it been trending hot in the startup circle like now. The burgeoning Indian food service industry is expected to reach US $ 78 billion by 2018. This means that we will see more restaurants, cafés and even caterers mushrooming across the country. With this pace and competition, the food services industry cannot ignore the power of online discovery and customer engagement through digital media platforms.
When Pankit Chheda and Sanket Shah, who were long-time friends, saw their respective family businesses not leveraging the power of digital media, they had a problem to solve. “Our fathers had no idea about the avenues internet can open up to grow their respective businesses. We realised that it was not just them but the entire small and medium scale industry was struggling through this challenge,” says Pankit, who was already exploring some product ideas with Sanket before they started their journey with Mass Blurb.
We observed during our research that restaurants had an issue managing content consistency across various digital platforms and had no strategic approach to leverage social media. There were restaurant owners who would complain about their lack of skills to create even a basic website. We decided to develop a single product powered with technology that would solve all these issues for them with minimum hassle,
explains Pankit on how Mass Blurb was born.
Mass Blurb is a marketing automation tool which provides an automated 360 degree marketing suite for restaurants to get more footfalls and engage customers. Mass Blurb not only helps with social media automation and lead generation but its natural language processing (NLP) based analytics system facilitates two-way messaging between restaurants and their customers. The lead generation and target messaging is done by profiling the right customers on social media. Mass Blurb auto populates relevant data from various online sources and helps restaurants with curated content for their social media pages. This content can be published across digital platforms with the ease of a single click.
“The customer no longer has to hire an agency to do all these work. They have complete control of how they want to project their brand online. Our USP lies in our data mining and sentiment analysis prowess. We want to profile each and every customer and understand their intent so that our restaurants can offer them a curated brand experience.” Pankit further explains that their goal is to equip the restaurants with every piece of information about their customers, right from their food preferences to their experience with the brand both online and offline.
“This is the future,” envisions Pankit. “With the reducing attention span of social media users, it is all about capturing your customer in the moment. Whether your customer is cribbing about the food at your restaurant, praising your service or looking for an option to eat a particular cuisine, restaurants have to make the most of that moment to convert online conversations into real dollars. Mass Blurb keeps restaurants updated with all such relevant user information and brings them closer to their customers.” Mass Blurb claims to offer their services at much affordable rates as compared to on-ground agencies.
Sanket, who earlier founded Visify Books, was experimenting with startups since he was in college. “I am a Gujarati and I am a born businessman,” laughs Sanket, who handles sales and product management at Mass Blurb and is very passionate about his work. Pankit, who handles tech development at Mass Blurb, joined Coupon Dunia after moving to India from USA in 2013. While at Coupon Dunia he was moonlighting at Mass Blurb with Sanket.
The duo was ready with its MVP in May 2013 and officially launched their product in October 2014. “We started testing our product in October 2014 with a couple of restaurants we knew through friends. The first one-month trial was free before we started charging for our services. We never had a non-paying customer,” Pankit shares proudly. He adds that Mass Blurb broke even within three months from the start of their operations.
Mass Blurb currently has a team of 12 people with presence only in Mumbai. In the next 10-12 months, they aim to be present across six major cities with about 2000-2500 restaurants as their customers. They are also exploring a couple of countries for their international foray. When asked how they ensure return on investments for their customers, Pankit shares, “We are working on this right now. We want to track what percentage of online engagement actually gets converted into a walk-in or sale.” The major business challenge Mass Blurb faces is to grab the wallet share of the customer, who already has Zomato trying to do everything for them. Pankit, however, feels that no one company can solve all the problems, the market needs companies with different expertise to support the ecosystem. Mass Blurb is already in the process of closing funding talks with investors and will release the details soon.
With global food service industry valued at $2.6 trillion in 2013, food tech startups across the world are grabbing investor eyeballs. This space is getting aggressive and competitive; a few predict that a lot of consolidation will happen in years to come where bigger giants would eat up the small fishes while some say that one still can’t predict how food tech market would shape up. Apart from local PR and digital marketing agencies, Mass Blurb has competitors like Pet Pooja and LimeTray who offer similar services. However, Mass Blurb claims that their technology would be a major entry barrier for existing and new players. Mass Blurb already has touched the 100 customer mark in Mumbai and has famous names like Café Zoe, British Brew Co. and the Impresario group in their kitty. With their next eye on larger food chains and cities, Mass Blurb is already making its presence felt in the startup circle.