This Thanjavur-based coupon company gives you free food vouchers every day for your favourite restaurants
There’s a popular adage, ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’. However, Umasankaran from Thanjavur turned this saying around after stepping into the F&B industry by launching Free Famous Food (FFF), which is one of the first online free food portals that aims to disrupt the advertising industry.
A graphic designer turned entrepreneur, 45-year-old Umasankaran moved to Singapore from Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu in 2002 to pursue Higher Diploma in Communication Science. Following his passion for visual arts, he founded Aadhii Designs in 2009 to provide branding to various restaurants and salons located in the city.
Umasankaran, Founder, Free Famous Food
While working in the segment, Umasankaran came across the business model of restaurants and salons where they partnered with various online portals including Groupon, offering customers discounted deals for which the restaurants were also pouring in a lot of money. This made him question the idea.
I researched and found various pitfalls in online deals and in the business model. This idea was not benefitting the restaurants. Thus, In 2012, I registered the domain www.freefamousfood.com to market F&B retail outlets, not only advertising about the restaurants but also help increase the footfall.”
He founded Free Famous Food in Singapore in 2015 as a bootstrapped venture with a capital of Rs 2.5 lakh. After gaining traction in Singapore, Umasankaran wanted to diversify his business and approached the Indian market, which he felt lacks this unique model.
FFF was launched in India in 2018 in Thanjavur and currently, the company records a turnover of Rs 50 lakh.
Free Famous Food is an online free food portal that provides 100 percent free food vouchers to customers from various famous restaurants in India and Singapore. Though there are various portals that provide varied offers and cashback deals on dine-in and delivery, Umasankaran says FFF gives its users absolutely free vouchers.
Users just need to log on to the website, download, and redeem the vouchers without any minimum spend or hidden charges.
Our USP is we persuade the consumers on the psychology of ‘urge for free offers’ and pull large crowd-base traffic to the portal as users. The unique domain name and 100 percent free strategy pulls large traffic to the portal,” Umasankaran says.
Hitting up foodies with goodies
After exploring the Singapore market and gaining prominence in the sector with 52 F&B partners and 4,000 registered users, Umasankaran started in his hometown in Thanjavur and later expanded the business to Chennai, Madurai, Tiruchirapalli, Coimbatore, Salem, and Kodaikanal.
Getting vouchers is a simple process. The user must sign on to FFF, select the restaurant, and download the voucher. User can download one voucher in a day and avail the free food benefits in the selected restaurant. Besides, if the user orders some add-ons in the restaurant, they get a coupon or points as a gift, which they can redeem later.
Umasankaran says that a person can avail one free food voucher everyday of different restaurants. And, to avail the voucher of the same restaurant again, there must be a gap of 90 days.
In a span of just two years, FFF has 30 F&B partners and 700 registered users in India. It partners with restaurants including, Drunken Monkey, Express Biryani, Sree Ananda Bhavan, and many more depending upon the locations.
Umasankaran shares that people today are too lazy to step out of the house and the rise of food delivery platforms has only exacerbated the situation. Though the number of people eating outside food has increased drastically, they prefer home deliveries over dining out. On the other hand, restaurants plough in funds to design and set up their restaurant.
The restaurant business is losing profits due to fewer dine-ins and more food deliveries despite having invested in customer experience such as interiors, and manpower. FFF helps to bring back diners to the restaurant to enjoy fresh food served with good service.”
Helping the F&B segment
FFF charges the restaurants Rs 10,000 a year for getting them publicity and traction. From social media coverages, photoshoots to graphic designs, every marketing requirement by the business is fulfilled by FFF in the same amount.
“The restaurants spend huge amounts of money on advertising and marketing without seeing a corresponding rise in sales and new customer acquisition. FFF disrupts conventional advertising and discount deals. FFF brings the customer directly to the F&B doorstep with a fraction of their advertising spend, thereby, standing apart from other platforms that just provide discount offers,” Umasankaran explains on his business model.
Overcoming the ‘Free is Fake’ challenge
Customers often have this tendency to believe that if the product/service is inexpensive or free, it would be fake. Umasankaran recalls that it was a struggle to make people understand that FFF is completely free. He says,
More than convincing the restaurants to partner with us, it was difficult to make people understand that FFF vouchers are not fake. In the beginning, people were worried that there may be still some binding terms and conditions.”
Now, in a span of almost two years, FFF has succeeded in gaining customers’ trust.
Umasankaran is now seeking investments to quickly address the demand in the market in all the major cities in India. Since FFF is highly scalable, he has plans to launch in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Delhi, and Mumbai this year. He is also planning to diversify in other countries including Malaysia, Canada, and the US.