Pocketin is a simple and easy to use app where a user can send a reservation request at multiple restaurants at once citing his discount bid. The app comes with an in-built chat platform where the dining experts assist the users to decide their restaurant by giving information such as specialties, happy hour timings, user reviews and much more. It’s built to personalize the whole experience and to make the decision-making process quick!
The folks who pocketed in the idea
Pocketin was founded by Kshitij Mehra and Anirudh Mondal. Both have known each other since 12 years which creates a great working rapport. Both are engineering graduates who passed out in 2015. Kshitij is a graduate from the Delhi College of Engineering and Anirudh is a graduate from Thapar University. Anirudh and Kshitij were both very proactive in college. While Anirudh founded Rotaract Club of Thapar University, in association with Rotary International, Kshitij was the president of the Cultural Society of DCE. Both got the chance to work at Deloitte Consulting in Gurgaon as interns in the Business Planning and Investment Appraisals team under senior partner Kamlesh Mittal.
Before the two founded Pocketin, both of them already had co-founded two other startups in college. StampU started in 2014, one of India’s first digital loyalty program for Restaurants, was their first venture. StampU was operational in more than 70 restaurants in Delhi NCR and had more than 800 downloads on the Google Play Store but the concept of loyalty in Indian markets is still not as relevant as a model where users get instant gratification and thus the repercussions! The other startup which they worked on was Popping Beats Entertainment, which was India’s first hip hop events company. This organization worked extensively for upgrading the underground hip hop scene, founding India’s biggest Street Dance face-off STFU consecutively for two years 2013 and 2014 with a cumulative budget of 15 Lacs raised from various sponsors like Bajaj Allianz, Redbull, NTPC and the likes.
Well! This inclination to start the ventures into restaurant industry was because both themselves are big foodies. Both of them had hard time remembering when to avail discount while visiting next time. Either they forgot to get the respective credit card/ get print outs. There were times when they were denied a discount because the discount expired just 5 minutes before they could reach the outlet. And, they always got the same discount irrespective of spending much more than the average ticket size. They sat down for two weeks to carefully jot down all the inefficiencies in the discount booking existing models.
“We brainstormed for a couple of weeks and came up with the idea of Pocketin, through which we tried to address all the existing loopholes which were existent in other rival products in the market” says Anirudh.
This is how Pocketin is making a difference
The idea of Pocketin struck the founders in June 2015 and they started working on it. They understood that there is a genuine need of a product in market which can not only make table reservations easy for users but also allow them to enjoy their experience at the BEST PRICE POSSIBLE. Matter of fact, there are other table reservation platforms which incentivize the user by giving him a bouquet of standard deals and discounts but then they are fixed. Pocketin takes into consideration that every user is unique and the discount he should get should also take into account what he intends to spend, no. of guests along with him and at what time he’s visiting. Pocketin makes it possible by connecting these users to restaurants in real-time.
In accordance with average bid which Pocketin keeps updating weekly based on analytics, the discount bids offered can be customized differently for different restaurants. 30 minutes after a user makes a reservation, he/she gets back responses from the restaurants with a simple yes or a no. So now, he can decide easily which place to visit depending upon who is willing to give him the best price and service!
This is the first time in India a platform has been created between diners and the restaurant managers to connect and negotiate.
The ideology kept in mind while devising the app is:
A diner would need not to waste time in negotiating prices with every restaurant on chat or call.
A restaurant manager is busy with daily operations. He wants a platform which is objective not subjective. With Pocketin, he can quickly evaluate all important metrics and answer in seconds.
Indian food services industry is more than 41 billion$ and its growing at a CAGR of 11% out of which mere 14% is organized, as of now. Indian Restaurant industry is over 85,000 crore (SMERGERS 2014) and is growing at 8-9% annually. Today, the number of eating outlets has swelled up to 15 lakh. Pocketin is out in market addressing the casual dining and fine dining industry which is pegged currently at 50,000 crores.
Smart phone penetration in India is happening at a break neck speed and people are starting to use smartphones for booking their grocery, furniture, food etc. “There is a clear trend of the unorganized sector which currently constitutes 85% of the industry slowly moving towards organized and that is the opportunity we are going after. We see that restaurants which currently rely on very few marketing channels are slowly adapting to more channels of affiliated marketing. What we have done right is that we charge our partner restaurants for only the business that we get them. We don’t get them just leads, but guaranteed business”.
Pocketin claims that their business model is new and completely unique. They tend to enjoy the privilege of being the first movers, but nevertheless they do face competition from other apps which the restaurants use to get business. The list includes Couponing sites like CouponDunia, MyDala, GroupOn (nearbuy) which offer coupons for dining. Table reservation websites like CrownIT, Eazydiner, EveningFlavours, and BiteQuest also offer discounts and deals along with table reservation. Mobile Payment solutions such as Ruplee and Momoe run discounts when one transacts through their app. Other means such as corporate discounts and credit card discounts are used by users. However, where in true sense they are different from other reservation platforms is that, nobody else has the technology to provide a real-time pricing according to the budget and time, then provide a detailed comparison between so many restaurants within minutes of launching the request. Their average time to respond to the user is 30 seconds and to make the reservation is just under 9 minutes. This is by miles ahead of the industry standards.
Pocketin’s USP lies in the fact that they offer something which others don’t- Real time Discounts which vary according to the time/date of request, no. of guests and budget. Through the app, one can get a discount which suits him best after getting responses from the placed bids. The possibilities are endless.
Also, they are the only application which has a Helpchat like integrated chat platform especially for diners. The availability of dining experts on the platform help the user with everything related to dining and restaurants. Their aim is to ensure that, once a user has made the booking through them, everything else is seamless for them. From the confirmation call/message to the final billing, they make sure that the user does not have to “ask” for the discount. He/ She would simply avail it at the time of the billing.
Challenges and Growth!
Pocketin is growing very quickly. In a short span of about 20 days, they have got more than 4000+ downloads on the android play store. They have more than 50 established restaurants as their partners with whom they work very closely. They have a team of 10 people working with them which they expect to double by this year-end.
“People love us for the flexibility and personalization that we offer. We have a record to offer the best deals in the market. The only challenge that Pocketin faces is to ramp up operations in multiple cities. We are getting requests every day to add more outlets and more locations. The demand is huge and we are trying our best to fulfill those as fast as we can.”
One of the biggest challenges right ahead as they are growing is to compete against big players in the market like Dineout owned by the Times Group and EazyDiner, promoted by Mr. Vir Sanghvi. But founders believe that their product has lots of differentiation factors which would help them stand out in the market. Another challenge for them was to convince their clients to come on-board. “But once we could show them how exactly this product offers better value for both the diners and the restaurants, they were convinced”.
In the coming months, Pocketin plans to pool in not only restaurants on their platform but gyms, spas and salons too. Through their unique model, anyone can be rest assured of getting the best possible price for any booking he/she make through them. Pocketin is actively in talks with a few individual investors and would shortly be closing their seed round!