The never ending debate of what one should do to engage with customers led us to start this series. As you know every Saturday we tend to bring you view points from people who manage their social media in-house or have a social media agency. We started the series with Uread that manages its own social media in-house and Arcopol did a great job by sharing many interesting thoughts.
Today we have got hold of another business that manages its social media in-house. It’s Pune’s apna business ‘TastyKhana’, food delivery experts. They just don’t deliver food from premium restaurants in Pune to your door step but also provide services like table reservations, deals, buffet listing, reviews, etc. Apart from having an amazing business model that is growing day by day, it also has an excellent social media presence. So we approached Shachin Bharadwaj, Founder and CEO of TastyKhana and he was quite keen when we said that we would love to know more about the social media initiatives that is being driven in-house. The email interview that we did is shared below:
1. Thanks for talking to us, Shachin. You recently celebrated four years of TastyKhana. How has been the journey so far?
It has been a fantastic journey! We started coding on the steps of Gold Adlabs multiplex (working from morning 6am to 9.30am and then heading to our full time job), were 20 days away from bankruptcy in first 6 months of business and today we deliver orders in excess of Rs.3 crores annually. Right from fund raising, building a team, tweaking the business model to adapt to customer needs and building a scalable technology platform it has been a great learning experience.
2. As we can see TastyKhana has some awesome presence on social networks. But what was the initial thought process when you guys had launched yourself on social media?
To start off with, we were not completely convinced by Social Media as a medium to engage customers (Yes, sounds really stupid when you think of it in hindsight!) We first started with Facebook and took us a long time to understand how to engage customers on FB. The 100 fans required to claim your URL took us few months! But then we learnt from other brands on FB and started sharing content that helped users engage with us.
We were very late to join Twitter and in fact it was started just to try our hands on the same. With initially having no clue as to what we could share on this media, we started conversations with other popular tweeters. Our loyal customers who were on FB helped us a great deal to spread the word. Today we feel Twitter is more powerful when it comes to customer engagement.
3. Engagement on Facebook and Twitter is not easy and you guys have done a great job. Would you like to share the secret with us?
Some parts have been answered above. With regards to Twitter we started tracking certain keywords and realized that a lot of people used to post food related tweets (where to eat, food suggestion etc) we started conversations with these people and provided genuine answers (rather than trying to push TK as a business identity). I think the key in twitter is to not to keep broadcasting your brand with no conversation, you need to respond to people’s questions and not just react to responses to your tweets.
With regards to FB I feel we still are some distance away from having a good engagement platform…but till date the approach we have followed there is based on the theory that a picture speaks 1000 words. We started posting a lot of images and gave users an insight into the working environment at TK. I think that people like this transparency and like to see the people behind the brand. This gives a personal touch to your customers.
In any social media I feel the key is to have that personal connect with your customers.
4. You also have a blog but that hasn’t been as active. How important do you think a blog is for you guys and any plans to revive it?
This has been something which have slipped on and we got really slow on this once FB and Twitter came into picture. Blog is definitely a great medium to share detailed insights of your business with your customers. In fact off lately we have seen lot of brands using blog as a medium to discuss business processes and not particularly related to their own company.
Yes we plan to revive our blogs and would like the founders to share their experiences via blogs.
5. TastyKhana has some Facebook apps. How effective have they been and would you say apps are a must for brands?
This was something that we tried to engage users on our FB page. Rather than just come and view or share feedback we thought it would be nice if they could also book a table or order their food using FB itself. I think it has been very effective from a branding perspective, restaurants were very eager to have this app on their fan pages and we have some very popular restaurant pages using our app to help user’s book table or order food directly via FB.
Also apps are something that needs to be built based on the kind of brand you have. If you have a pure online identity then having a good app is a must, but if you are a business that finally caters to customers in person then apps help you from a branding perspective
6. The industry you are might have led to certain level of criticism. So how have you handled negative criticism? If you can share any example it would be great.
LOTS of criticism! Right from day 1 we have had critics who said that this will never work. In our business the service standards depend very heavily on the kind of service the restaurants provide to us. So the greatest challenge has been to ensure that we get restaurants to work at similar levels and provide the best possible experience to the end user.
Would like to share a specific example of an investor whom I had met in mid-2008. He is angel investor with Mumbai Angels (won’t name him) and I was pitching to him about our idea. He heard me out patiently and said the following “You are currently just 25yrs or so and in few years you do not want to think that you wasted the prime years of your life in doing something which will not work” He went on to say “I will be surprised if you can manage to have revenues of even Rs.50000 per month”
This statement hurt me a LOT but at the same time hit at the right place – our EGO. My entire effort from that day was to ensure that I will prove him wrong and write to him someday on numbers that would be many multiples of what he spoke off 🙂 And I did write back to him few years down the line. So basically negative criticism initially helped us a great deal to work towards proving people wrong! I guess when you are young and just starting off the blocks you believe that everything is possible, and every negative feedback is simply brushed aside thinking that it is possible.
7. Lastly, since you manage your social media in-house, how challenging has it been and would you recommend it to other SME’s too?
It is becoming very challenging to manage this internally now. Social media is completely managed by the founders and the directors of the company today, but as we now plan to scale to other cities in India, it will not be possible for us to keep the same level of engagement which was possible earlier. So we are looking at mix of founders plus other office staff (such as customer care etc) being involved in managing this media and not outsource it completely.
For SMEs I would recommend that they manage their social media in-house till they don’t reach numbers like 1000+ fans/followers.
Some interesting thoughts that were well expressed by Shachin! I am in awe with the sincerity that TastyKhana has shown while handling social media. In social media, you have to accept things and move ahead as some things may work and some may not. It’s all about experimenting. Another thing that has impressed me about TastyKhana is that it is not posting the same content across all networks. There’s definitely inspiring work happening in social media at TastyKhana while they are delivering food too.
Do you think in-house social media is a safe bet for businesses?