Clicktable is a venture of the 33-year-old, Varun Gupta, a computer engineer from Purdue University, USA and an MBA from Columbia University, New York. For the last 10 years, he has also been involved in his family business – Kent RO Systems Ltd, the largest water purifier brand in India.
The idea clicked with him when he was repeatedly denied a reservation because of unavailability at an award-winning restaurant in South Delhi. Realizing that table availability should be more transparent with prospective diners and finding that nothing like such existed in the Indian market, he decided to do it himself.
Clicktable is a mobile app cum website that allows diners to make hassle free real-time table reservations at their favorite restaurants. It also brings to diners the best offers, amazing deals and exciting events at the best restaurants in town.
Apart from the consumer-facing mobile apps and website, there is a restaurant facing side also called the Empower App. The Empower application is targeted towards casual and fine dining restaurants and it streamlines management of various front desk tasks like reservations, waitlists, guest data and table management, and promotion of events & offers.
Consumers don’t pay anything to make reservations through the platform but Clicktable charges restaurants to use the software and other services. The consumer website has been up and running since last three months. As of now, the startup receives roughly 100,000 visitors on the website every month.
Varun was trying to get a reservation at an award-winning restaurant in Delhi for quite some time but all his attempts were unsuccessful. He wondered, why isn’t there an online system which shows table availability to prospective diners to ease the process of making reservations at restaurants.
Having spent considerable time in the US and experiencing such portals over there, he thought that this should be a good idea for the Indian market and should have an immense potential, given the facts that Indian diners are spending more time on their smartphones than before and the restaurant industry is growing at a healthy rate.
Although he studied computer engineering, Varun had lost touch of hands-on programming as he was involved in a non-IT related role in the family business for last 10 years. Therefore, he created a small technology team to carry out POCs before hiring the full team for product development. Simultaneously, Varun also reached out to many restaurants in order to understand their acceptance for a table and reservation management software. The outcomes from the survey helped Clicktable to fine-tune the offerings in their software.
Thereafter, the team spent almost six months to develop the restaurant facing software that allows restaurants to manage tables, reservations, customer data and events & offers and named it “Empower” because by using the software, a restaurant is empowered to offer better customer experience to its diners.
“We spent roughly a year in selling the Empower app to restaurants in Delhi NCR and simultaneously developed our consumer facing website and mobile apps. Once a threshold number of restaurants were using the Empower app in Delhi NCR, we launched our consumer facing website and apps. We also started operations in Bengaluru and Mumbai subsequently,” says Varun.
“We provide a seamless experience for table reservations to diners. Because our consumer website and apps are integrated with the piece of another software that runs at the restaurant, we always have the real-time table availability and hence, the reservations are confirmed in real-time. We have completely bypassed the call-center model in our operations,” Varun adds.
Also, another thing that makes Clicktable very different from all the competition is that the interface allows only actual diners to review restaurants on the platform. This prevents bloggers and spammers from creating artificial ratings of restaurants like on similar platforms.
In the target set of restaurants, there are roughly 7000 restaurants across 10 big cities of India. Almost 3 million people dine at these restaurants every month. The sole target is to capture 5% of this market in near term. Varun and team are currently marketing the website and app only through the digital medium. Investment in radio and OOH media is also in the pipeline.
The biggest challenge was the difference between expectations and reality. Almost every startup goes through this and Clicktable was no different. They build this product after gathering information from 250+ restaurants and the team internally believed that it’s a well thought off product.
Varun speaks to Startup Wonders, “But when we launched the restaurant facing app, Empower, in the market, we were taken aback by the resistance shown by the restaurants to implement such a product. They were just not ready to make a paradigm shift from manually managing their reservations, waitlist, guest data, etc and move to a cloud-based product. We quickly realized that dedicated training to their staff mitigated most of their apprehensions and thus we started providing unlimited free on-field training as part of our sign-up process. In fact, unlimited free training is a major USP for us now,”
Also, early the team assumed that real-time confirmation of reservations would be enough to generate enough traction for reservations but after launching the consumer website, they soon realized that Indian diners are mostly value driven and offers/deals are their highest priority while making reservations. They quickly had to rework the product to ensure that deals and offers are more prominent on the website and app.
They started out of Delhi NCR and managed to attract roughly 800 restaurants on the platform. They have been successful in tapping standalone restaurants and now the focus has shifted on chains and 4/5 star hotels. They also started operations in Bangalore and Mumbai a few months back are also planning to start operations in Pune and Hyderabad soon.