Witaj, Polska!

Our little plan of bringing all the little guys across the world together to build a bigger and better Zomato has been working very well. The turn of events (and the subsequent market leadership) in New Zealand after we acquired MenuMania worked very well for our users, and for us as a business. The initial signs with our acquisitions in the Czech Republic and Slovakia are very good, and we’re very excited about building on top of a great product with a great local team, which adds a ton of energy to Zomato.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia were our first two launches in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE); with that underway, we started thinking about Poland, definitely the largest market for a product like ours in CEE. Poland is far ahead of a lot of countries when it comes to adopting and developing new technologies (and is sometimes also said to be innovating a lot more than good old Silicon Valley).

Gastronauci, the newest member of the Zomato family, has had an iron grip on the market in Poland and built great market and mindshare over the past 6 years. With the brand, and the associated network effect, Zomato will have a significant advantage (and head start) compared to our other competitors. We’re not kidding when we say that Gastronauci was doing such a great job, it was a straightforward buy vs. no-go decision for us while evaluating our foray into Poland. They’ve beaten the yell out of any competition coming out of the Valley, which is commendable.

We were always really excited about the Poland market, and Gastronauci joining us just makes the excitement more real. We’re now eagerly looking forward to making Zomato Poland the de-facto restaurant guide in the country.

Check-ins and Memories. Presenting the new Zomato.

We’ve spent many hours scrolling endlessly through our food feeds, checking out (and drooling over) all the great reviews and pictures that flowed in after our last update a few months ago. Now, we’re going a step further, and building on the existing Zomato experience to make the in-restaurant experience smoother and easier. 

It starts with the Check In. Checking in at a restaurant now gives you handy tips from fellow foodies, suggestions on what to order, and also lets you add a picture or a review for that restaurant incredibly easily. 

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What’s even better than checking in at a restaurant, you ask? Checking in with friends! You can now tag friends in check-ins, reviews, and photo comments, so you’ll always remember who you celebrated that promotion with. Without saying too much, we’ll tell you that the check-in is just the first step in a series of great new related features to come. Just a note of playful caution: Zomato is not a game, so just don’t expect any (ahem) official-sounding titles if you keep checking in at places across the city.

Speaking of places across the city, we understand it can be quite difficult to remember all the restaurants you’ve eaten at, or when you went to a particular one. With the completely redesigned Food Journey, you can now track every single foodie moment – the photos you added, the reviews you wrote, and now even check-ins – right from the time you signed up on Zomato, up until the meal you just finished.

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One more important thing we’re sure you’ll notice the moment you open the app, is how different it looks and feels. Images load 6x faster than before, the home screen is easier to read, and even restaurant pages have been redesigned so things are just where you’ll need them. For example, the things that foodies on Zomato access the most – menus, reviews, and pictures – are conveniently located at the top half of the page. Supporting information such as dish suggestions, what a restaurant is known for, timings, and cuisines are at the bottom half. Essentially, we’re on a mission to make things as simple as we possibly can for anyone deciding where to eat. That’s also why your Wishlist and SpeedDial – now rolled into a single list known as Bookmarks – can be accessed offline as well (so you’re at nobody’s mercy when the WiFi’s down and you need to order in).

Last, but definitely not the least, Zomato is also compatible with iOS8. In addition to several overall performance improvements, we’ll be baking in some of their features in future updates. For now, you can use interactive notifications to follow foodies back from within the notification at the top of your screen, without leaving what you were doing. 

All these changes should go a long way in simplifying the way we eat. And like we said, there’s still so much more to come, including our Android, Windows Phone, and website updates, which are headed your way very soon.

We’re always looking for feedback, so we know what we need to be doing better. We’d love it if you took the app for a spin, and sent us your thoughts – we’re at feedback@zomato.com, and always listening on twitter. Oh, and if you haven’t already heard, we’re giving away an iPhone 6 for the most brutally open – but constructive – public feedback we get for our apps and website. You might want to check it out – because those food pictures will look so much better on that 4.7-inch screen. 

Introducing Experts

One of the biggest challenges in food discovery is being relevant to the local tastes of people. We took a step towards that with our last major product update by introducing Collections that catered to a variety of local tastes, ranging from Afternoon Tea in London to Artisanal Coffee in Manila, as well as popular themes that work across locations, such as Romantic and Outdoor restaurants.

It’s fair to say that some people in a city know the best it has to offer – whether it’s a tiny coffee shop tucked away in a back-alley, a Chinese restaurant that delivers 24x7, or even a newly opened restaurant that does the best spaghetti carbonara in town. So now, to share even more of that local knowledge, we’re introducing Neighborhood Experts.

Becoming an Expert needs you to know your city and its various neighborhoods inside-out – and we’re not just talking the popular restaurants and the hotspots that everyone already knows about. We mean really knowing the best places to find anything a fellow foodie might be looking to dig into.

To be able to boast a snazzy Expert badge on your profile, you need to:

  • write 10 great reviews of restaurants in a single neighborhood.
  • post 50 photos of restaurants in that same neighborhood (they’ll all need to be tagged to restaurants in that neighborhood to count)

In case you’re wondering how a neighborhood is defined, it’s written just adjacent to the name of the restaurant on a restaurant page (it’s also the area mentioned at the start of the address on the restaurant page): 

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As you conquer neighborhoods, you’ll get badges on your profile that announce you as an Expert in those areas: 

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The best part? There’s no limit on how many neighborhoods you can be an Expert in, and your expertise is valid forever once you’ve earned it.

With the introduction of Experts, you’re going to notice one little difference – we won’t have city-level leaderboards anymore. Given the way the Expert system is structured, you get to share your valuable foodie knowledge across an even wider area (literally), while still engaging in a little healthy competition with your friends to see who conquers a shared neighborhood first. We’re working to make being an Expert even more valuable, because we envision a world where every neighborhood has an Expert who isn’t just passionate about food, but also has the best food stories to tell.

So here’s to you, Experts!

Welcoming Lunchtime and Obedovat


If there’s one thing we love as much as an all-you-can-eat buffet, it’s extending our already fast-growing multi-country presence. We’re delighted to announce that Lunchtime and Obedovat, the largest lunch menu websites in the Czech Republic and Slovakia respectively, are now a part of Zomato

Over the course of building up our European operations, we’ve observed that lunch menus are key to the dining behavior in the Central and Eastern European region. With lunch menus for over 5000 restaurants in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Lunchtime and Obedovat provide us with a great platform onto which we can build Zomato’s features. More importantly, we’re joining forces with teams that resonate with our cultural values, have invaluable insights and experience in the local markets, and are as passionate as we are about helping people find great places to grab a bite or a drink. We’ve spent a lot of time getting to know the founding teams of both companies, and we’re really excited about our collaborative potential.

Together, we’ll be able to build the largest restaurant information resource in the region – going beyond just lunch menus – so you’re spoiled for choice whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner. To keep things running smoothly, and offering the best of both worlds to users and merchants alike, we’ll be gradually integrating Lunchtime and Obedovat into Zomato over the coming weeks. This approach worked beautifully for us when we welcomed New Zealand’s MenuMania into the fold, and we’ll be looking to carry it across to some of the upcoming markets in our pipeline.

For now, we’d just like to say a big welcome and na zdraví to the newest members of the Zomato family.

Presenting Collections: A new way to feed your fancy

As American food writer Mary Fisher rightly said, “First we eat, then we do everything else”. It’s fair to say all of us spend a good part of our lives trying to answer the “where should I go to eat (or drink ;)) today?” question. At Zomato, we’d like to believe that we’ve spoilt you for choice more often than not with our exhaustive coverage of restaurants. In the version of Zomato that we released last month, we made a mistake by looking at the wrong data set and taking out the “Top trending restaurants” section on Zomato. What followed was a deluge of emails asking why we removed this feature. That got us wondering about what we’d got wrong. We realised that a lot of our users open Zomato with no idea about what to search for. They just want to go out, and have a good time. This is where the “Top trending restaurants” kicked in. It was a list of popular restaurants in town — something that helped our users browse and decide quickly. We also took a deep dive into popular search queries on Zomato, which revealed that users look for very specific types of places to go — for example, you might be wondering where to take your significant other for a romantic dinner, or where you can find a microbrewery to beat the heat. So we decided to take the solution to this need gap a notch further by giving you a starting point based on popular themes and occasions, instead of you having to structure your thoughts into a search query. From today, Collections have you covered if you find yourself staring at the search bar not knowing what to search for.

From ravioli to romance

Collections are bite-sized lists of restaurants in your city that cover various themes and occasions to make deciding where to go easier than ever. We’ve worked hard to create Collections based on each city’s unique flavours as well as seasonal trends. For example, you can gorge on the best burgers London has to offer, find pet-friendly restaurants in Bangalore that’ll let you bring a furry friend along, or even have your tastebuds seduced by a master-chef at one of the celebrity chef restaurants in Dubai. The restaurants you see in Collections are picked by our intelligent algorithm, and then vetted by our in-house team of foodie ninjas to ensure only the tastiest get through.

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Looks great, tastes better


Collections package the best your city has to offer into a simple, visually engaging experience. To showcase these great restaurants, we’ve designed a new card-based browsing experience on our apps that will keep you flipping through Collections for more! When something catches your eye, tuck it into your Wishlist for future deliciousness.

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Collections are available on both, our website, as well as on our mobile apps across iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. So whether you’re planning to laze at a beach bar in Lisbon, or you’re stuck in Mumbai traffic dreaming about cupcakes, inspiration is always within reach. So go on, give Collections a nibble, and feed your fancy.

We’re crazy. Not stupid.

The last 24 hours have been eventful for us, to say the least. We started off with the aim of putting Zomato in front of the awesome tech talent in Bangalore, but seems like it touched more nerves than hearts. In hindsight, we made one elementary mistake with this campaign - we took the ability to laugh at ourselves for granted. It hurt some feelings, and we are truly sorry for that.

What we thought was a cheeky dig at Bangalore spiralled into something we never imagined. We’ve seen all kinds of allegations flying around, and it was helped in no small part by the stereotype jokes on the parody of our original page (it has also been removed by its creator). Since the focus of the campaign has shifted a few hundred miles off course, we thought we should clarify a few things.

1. This was just a hiring campaign to attract the right talent, and not to offend, outrage, degrade, stereotype, or do any of the terrible things that have been claimed. We’re crazy, not stupid :-)

2. We’ve said it before, and we’re happy to say it many times over. We love Bangalore, and we have absolutely nothing against the city or its people. In fact, this campaign wouldn’t have seen the light of day if not for the awesome tech talent there. We also admit we’re slightly jealous that Bangalore has better weather through the year, and got to enjoy Metallica.

3. None of the parody pages doing the rounds were created by us or anyone affiliated with Zomato. To the creators of those pages - hats off for the effort, but no thanks for the unwarranted sh*t it piled on us, because people thought that we created those pages too.

While we totally understand that this might have been a troll too far, some of the things that were said were mind-numbing. The suggestions that we’re trying to create a racial divide in the country, or that we have anything against people from any part of the country, were disappointing. We were absolutely taken aback by people reacting with rape and crime posts; that was completely uncalled for. We admit we got the campaign wrong this time, but to those who gave it a racist, rapist or criminal tone - we are sorry, we are not with you. All said and done, we now know that campaigns like this one probably need more than five opinions before going live. And even though we’ve been getting some great applications, we’ve pulled the campaign down in the hope that it’ll put an end to the confusion.

Introducing the new Zomato

Over the past few months, we’ve taken Zomato to new shores (Brazil, Turkey, and Indonesia, to name a few, with more on the way) and we realized that our product that worked wonderfully in the countries we’re in, didn’t quite match up to the expectations of what people were really looking for.

What followed was a lot of talking to a lot of people who use Zomato regularly. Understanding how they use it. What they like about it. And more importantly, what it is that they dislike. Here are some things we heard from our users:

Can you please make my search quicker and easier? Given the number of listings on Zomato, I have to spend a lot of time figuring out that perfect place to eat.

Reduce the number of low-value reviews. Only show what is useful and relevant. Filter out the junk, and make it easy for me to read reviews from the people I choose to follow on Zomato.

Can I please make Zomato my one-stop food journal? I would like to keep a record of what I ate, with pictures and reviews. A food journal of sorts.

Can I get recommendations for places I might like from the people I follow? Make it easy for me to know what my friends are eating and what they like.

There are some reviewers who don’t understand the 5-point rating scale. The minimum rating they give is a 3 out of 5. Is there a way to normalize their effect on a restaurant’s overall rating?

Too many restaurants lie between 3.0 and 3.5 out of 5. It makes choosing very difficult. Is there a way to force rankings for restaurants in a city, like classroom rankings?

All these questions and insights changed the way we think about Zomato. We also realized that in order to incorporate these things, we’d have to effectively rebuild the way Zomato works from scratch, without changing the basics that everyone is used to.

Starting today, you will see a new Zomato. On the web, and on your mobile devices. We have completely rebuilt and redesigned the experience, and have tried to address most of the issues that have been bugging our users and giving us (many) sleepless nights.

So here’s what we did:

Q: Can you please make my search faster?

Searching for a place to eat is now easier than ever. While the easily-recognizable search bar stays, it’s packing a lot of intelligence behind the scenes. Just start typing what you want - whether it’s a restaurant, a cuisine, or a particular dish - and you’ll find the suggestions rolling in. So now, instead of typing “<restaurant name> Zomato” on Google, you can get more than you bargained for with the new Zomato search. To be honest, it doesn’t sound as cool when we talk about it, so we’d rather you see it for yourself.

Q: Can you reduce the number of low-value reviews on Zomato?

Now, for any restaurant, you will see three tabs for reviews:

- Popular: These are reviews that score the highest in terms of value, based on our algorithm.

- Following: This filters out everything else and shows reviews written only by people you follow.

- All: As the name suggests, this shows all reviews for the restaurant by everyone sorted in a reverse chronological order.

We will keep the low-value (junk/spam/fake) reviews away from you. P.S.: If you get junk from the people you followed, please unfollow them.

Q: Where’s my food journal?

Any food experience worth having is a food experience worth sharing. We’ve made it way easier to upload pictures while on the move (and we’ve also ensured that these features work as advertised :)). Add reviews for places you’ve been to, add to them with amazing pictures, using our dramatically improved photo filters. Tell the world where you’ve been eating, and let them follow your food journey.

Q: Can I know what my friends like?

Say hello to the Feed. It’s where you can see all the gastronomic activity of foodies you follow on Zomato. If you come across a place that looks interesting, you can add it to your Wishlist straight from the Feed. Over time, add every place that you want to visit to your Wishlist. Then, when you’re actually looking for a place, you can just swipe to the ‘In Wishlist’ section in search results, so you don’t need to spend time hunting through hundreds of options.

Q: Can you normalise a user’s ratings?

This has been now built into the system, to ensure that an overly positive or negative bias doesn’t affect the restaurant’s rating dramatically. We will adjust a user’s input for a restaurant according to his rating bias. For people who are always tough, their ratings will be adjusted upwards. For the ones who are always overly nice, their ratings will be adjusted downwards. You won’t see this directly, but it will affect the aggregate rating that we show for restaurants.

Q: There are too many restaurants clustered in the 3.0-3.5 bracket. Can you prevent this?

Yes, and this is a big change you will have to get used to. Now, we have ranked all the 221,000 restaurants on a normal distribution curve. Here’s what the change looks like. Graph_1 This should make it easier for all of us to decide where we should go out to eat. This is the most personalized Zomato has ever been. In fact, the new system allows each of us to create and own a mini-Zomato. There’s so much to bite into in this release, it feels like all our previous versions were made to whet appetites for this one. This is the big one; the main course. All this comes with a complete overhaul of the interface of the website and apps. More importantly, we’ve redefined the UX altogether. We’ve ironed out a lot of things to ensure that Zomato is super easy for everyone to use. You will also come across a few features we haven’t mentioned here, but hey - we want to leave something as a surprise ;) All these good things come with one small trade-off. To get to know you better and save your preferences to make sure that we can serve you what you’d like to see, Zomato will now be a login-only product. There will no longer be a “Nevermind” (that was a subtle Nirvana reference, for those of you who missed it) button at the bottom of the app login screen. But once you’re in, you’ll know why. We’ve pulled out the stops to make sure that you will love the new Zomato. So please take it for a spin, and let us know what you think. We are always listening at feedback@zomato.com or on Twitter

Getting the hiring advantage: actively seeking ‘passive’ talent

Over the past few years, finding and hiring the right people to grow our team has been a little like looking for a needle in a haystack. As our team grew (now 650 people strong, up from 140 this time last year) along with our global aspirations, we were faced with an interesting situation – a lot of the people we wanted to have on board weren’t actually looking for jobs.

For the longest time, we’ve considered job portals as the most dependable platform from which to source talent. These are people looking for companies, and companies in turn, looking for people.  In other words, ‘active talent’. But what about passive talent i.e. people who aren’t actively looking to make a move? There could be a variety of reasons they’re in this bracket:

1. They don’t have the time: Anyone who’s hunted for a job will tell you it isn’t an overnight process. Identifying a role that excites you enough is time-consuming. Then there are interviews and other formalities that follow. If someone loves what they’re doing, they probably won’t take the time out to look for a switch until they feel a desperate need for it.

2. They’re not aware of the options: As a startup, there’s probably a lot more excitement and growth one can offer to a candidate than a large corporate can. But if one isn’t looking actively, it’s likely they won’t dig deep enough to explore possibilities.

3. They don’t know you are an option: There’s a fair chance that the people who might fit nicely into your system are big fans and active users of your product. But it’s equally likely that they don’t see you as a potential employer, because there’s no precedent in their peer group.

4. They simply haven’t given it any thought: To describe it in a word: inertia. This is a combination of the first two points – some people might just be in their current job because they haven’t bothered giving it a second thought, even if discontent and boredom are creeping in. If you can show them what they could be missing (especially at a startup), they might sit up and take notice.

Half the job is done when you have identified the issue. Now, how do you find such people? Here are some lessons/tips/tricks from our hiring experiences over the past few months:

Your users are the best people to put this question to. Be shameless in telling people who like your product and use it often that you are hiring. We almost always have a prominent hiring message on the website and have a steady stream of applications coming in every day. Previously, they just didn’t know it was an option for them. Also, use your social media strength to spread the word that you are hiring.

Network, and then network some more: Be passive aggressive with networking. Incentivise your employees to tap into their networks. Then their friends’ networks and their friends’ network…well, you get the picture

In general, however, getting the right referrals even in small numbers, helps in building effective networks. Moreover, via your friends and colleagues who understand you and your culture, you are more likely to identify people who will be good for the company. [Hint: Facebook graph search works better than LinkedIn or any other tool for recruiting.]

LinkedIn etc.: Social networks (especially, LinkedIn) are some of your best sources to look for passive talent. Especially when you have to ‘hunt’ for the right people; job portals work better for mass hiring, aka ‘farming’. The first question you need to answer before you fire up LinkedIn is what kind of candidate fits the bill? – What kind of profiles, firms, experience, education, and locations are you targeting? Now that you have what you need, start identifying similar profiles and then reach out to every single one. Send a message to connect, keep it cordial, direct, and give a quick overview of what your company does. When people get back to you, talk to them right away – memory based on LinkedIn messages is often short-lived.

In a nutshell: recruiting is always the biggest growth challenge for a fast growing company. We are now a 650-member organisation, and there has been no point in time when we felt hiring was easy. Sometimes we get so frustrated that we toy with the idea of just doing a massive outdoor campaign to announce the fact that we’re hiring. Then sanity prevails. Although we’ve chosen the path less traveled, we know from experience that we are investing time and money in the right people and the right hiring avenues.

Tell me what you think!

Food for thought: solving hiring problems at Zomato

While making our first hires five years ago, we had one thing in mind – focus on identifying and hiring the right people. Of course, like all startups, getting the right people on board has been our biggest challenge. The growth of the business, the personality of the brand and the firm’s culture all depend on the people who work with you and carry things forward. The team we have right now is our biggest achievement and scaling it up - an even bigger challenge. We’ve always had two areas where finding great people hasn’t particularly been a cakewalk – tech and leadership. So rather than sticking to traditional methods for hiring, we decided to experiment a little. We came up with two programs to scale this wall ahead of us – Trial Week (for tech) and the Leadership Program (obviously, to find leaders).

Our Call for Leaders focuses on getting in touch with people who have founded and led their own ventures in the past. It’s simple - entrepreneurs develop a unique skillset, which makes them solution oriented, focused decision makers, and highly adaptable. We’ve hired entrepreneurs in the past, and it’s worked very well for us. They’ve experienced ups and downs, and they understand what it takes to overcome challenges. The rarely complain about stuff, and are always in the state of fixing things which are broken.

Each new market presents predictable tasks- hiring and managing a team, finding office space, sorting out regulatory paperwork, etc. But, if that was all that went into building our business, we wouldn’t have to set the bar so high for our team. Each new market requires a leader with the mental flexibility to problem solve any and every challenge set before them, whether it is tailoring our product to different cultures or aggregating millions of data points around restaurants during monsoon season.

Our other hiring challenge- getting the best and brightest in tech. Over time we realised that a 2-hour interview may not be the best way to test an engineer’s technical skills (or the culture fit).There is only so much you can learn about someone during an interview and time is limited. It’s not unusual for qualified candidates to panic, and ultimately we end up missing out as much as the candidate does.

We thought of a "Trial Week" to solve this issue. The program is mainly geared towards students, although graduates with a serious passion for engineering could also apply. Selected participants were invited to spend one week working with our tech team in Delhi on live projects. We made the program accessible to all by taking care of their travel, their stay in Delhi, and, of course, their food ;-)

This trial works both ways- it’s the best way for trialists to experience the work culture at Zomato firsthand and it allows us to see who can solve real problems in a fast-paced work environment. The trialists we see fit, in terms of skill and culture, are offered full-time positions at Zomato.

Even with these new initiatives, hiring the right people still isn’t easy. We will continue to innovate our hiring methods as we scale. There’s a lesson in it for all of us - when you’re up against a wall, you break through it.

The food cart is now bigger and loaded.

If there’s one thing we’ve discovered – rediscovered, actually – about ourselves over the past year, it’s that we’re always looking for ways to out-do anything we’ve done before. When we took our baby steps and launched international operations in Dubai in September last year, we thought we’d done the biggest thing yet. At the turn of the year came London – and we thought we were doing something pretty big. In July, we launched five cities simultaneously to celebrate our fifth birthday. And we thought that was something. This time, it’s three different kinds of big:

1 - Today, we are launching our services in three new countries, Brazil, Turkey and Indonesia. And seven new cities in all. Brazil is undoubtedly everyone’s dream destination for next year, and we have no intention of watching the game from the bench. We’re in São Paulo for now, with 11 more cities (to complete all the 12 world cup venues) coming very soon. We have Jakarta covered in Indonesia, and in Turkey, we’ve got Istanbul and Ankara on the map. That puts us in 35 cities across 11 countries now with plenty more to come.

2 - Since we love nothing more than a challenge, we’ve done something we’ll be doing a lot more of as we go along – rolling out Zomato in more languages. In addition to the English version of the website and apps, you can now use Zomato in Portuguese, Bahasa Indonesia, and Turkish (in Brazil, Indonesia, and Turkey respectively). Looking back, this was a tough cookie to bite. 

3 - And last, but not the least, we’ve just raised another round of funding. USD 37 million – our biggest so far, and the biggest ever in the restaurant search space – from Sequoia Capital and Info Edge. It will allow us to push our geographical boundaries even further and enable us to take something you love to a lot of other people in various parts of the world. We intend to launch Zomato in 22 more countries over the next 2 years. Which 22 countries? Let’s leave something for a surprise :) We thank Info Edge for all the ongoing support since the last few years. Zomato certainly has gained tremendously from the faith Sanjeev and team has shown in our team and product since the early days. We are also excited to partner with Sequoia to take this little food cart further. Sequoia’s vision for Zomato completely aligns with ours and it is going to be exciting to work with them to build the future of dining. Incidentally, we opted for this investment over a lucrative, big-name strategic buyout. But that’s a story for another day.

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The next few months will see Zomato prepare for scale. As we have done a few times, take a few steps back for a bigger leap. The product will change quite a bit, but we will make sure that you love us even more. Thank you for all your support so far. Please keep using Zomato, and please keep telling us where we suck. That, according to us, is the only way to build something phenomenal.