Jhashank Gupta is a product manager at Zomato, a multinational restaurant aggregator and food delivery company with presence in 3200+ cities all over the world. His journey into product was unconventional as he doesn’t come from a technology, engineering or business background. Starting from Hindu College as an English Hons student to taking up freelance design projects as side interest, and landing his first job as a UI/UX designer, everything about his professional journey is intriguing and inspiring.
We got to discuss with him the customer engagement challenges that online food ordering apps face, and how to win over them. Here’s what he has to say.
Tell us about your journey from a UI/UX designer to product manager at Zomato.
As a child, I was always interested in understanding technology – this interest quickly developed into web designing and UI/UX design. I worked in an organization as a UI/UX intern where I slowly started picking up all that a product manager is meant to do – and eventually joined as a PM.
This role sits at the center of multiple disciplines – you literally need to be a jack of all trades who can speak the language of engineers, designers, sales teams, marketing folks and so on. It involves working on a different problem statement every day – it is not easy! But what defines this role is a PMs ability to be grounded; to be deeply empathetic and to understand the pain points of the users – and finally solving those problems. That’s what excites me every single day.
A PM needs an array of skill sets under the belt to be good at their job. Someone coming from a non-tech background has to spend considerable time honing their tech skills and reaching a point where they understand tech enough to have meaningful conversations with their tech teams. In the same manner, someone coming from a tech background may have to spend considerable time trying to polish their communication and product-positioning skills while someone else coming from a data background will have to learn more about design.
For me personally – the initial days of my career were harder (spent sitting with my team to understand how the tech behind everything worked!). Today – I work with a great team that works together to ship quality products at speed.
What makes Zomato successful? What is the current stage and focus?
Zomato started with a simple goal of helping people find great restaurants to eat at – gradually over the years this goal has turned into a mission to bring better food to more people. This includes dining out at restaurants or ordering in.
Over the last few years, we have realized that there are other sectors associated with eating well – which has given rise to other verticals like Nutrition, Healthy meals, sustainable packaging and more.
At Zomato, I work in the dining out team responsible for improving the dining experience for users when they step out. Over the last year, our focus has been on ensuring that dining out is safe for our users internationally.
The vision is to build a product that helps users discover great restaurants to dine at, and to make this process super easy.
How do you scale yourself up as an Individual?
This one is simple – read, talk to your users and then read more! The more we read, we are introduced to diverse ways of thinking and approaching problem statements. Talking to users and listening to their feedback helps in identifying the problems worth solving for.
Another thing that has worked for me is community learning – over the last 2 years, we’ve seen some amazing product chapters come up in cities across the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been introduced to great product managers who have helped me scale as an individual and expand the way I think.
What has changed post pandemic?
Being on a product team, it is extremely important to communicate why we are building certain features, what user problems we are solving and what the impact of solving those problems is going to be. It is important to share regular updates with business teams on what is happening, what progress has been made, what feedback is coming in from users. All this was easier to do in person (pre-covid), today this is one of the biggest challenges in working remotely – something that deserves conscious focus and solutioning.
On the product front, before the pandemic, users were more concerned with the variety of food and the offers various partners ran on our platform. Today, the focus is entirely on getting safe and hygienic food; on being less exploratory.
Zomato was recently declared the most trusted brand in India during this pandemic – this has been possible because we have actively tried to listen to the changing needs of our customers in these perilous times and have tried to solve them.
Some of our product changes like surfacing the safety measures being followed by a restaurant, helping users order home-style meals, contactless delivery, rider safety checks, etc. have been received very well by our users since they solved the need of the hour.
What’s the biggest challenge you faced in terms of winning customer’s trust till date at Zomato?
Winning over customers is what every business aims at, and yet finds it most challenging. It gets tougher when your customers have already had a bad experience – either with a partner delivering food or at a restaurant while dining in. It is at this stage that winning the customer back is the most important.
We’ve tried to solve it by ensuring that we are actually listening to the user’s problem instead of sharing generic responses when they reach out to us. This has been facilitated by empowering our “customer win” team with the right tools to solve the user’s problem right from their dashboards.
How have you levelled up the in-chat engagements at Zomato?
We’ve made massive leaps in terms of in-chat engagements at Zomato. This has been possible by having a dedicated team that works on improving our user’s chat experience instead of treating support as an after-thought.
We’ve leveraged assisted chats and automated flows to solve a huge chunk of the customer queries within minutes (and without any human intervention!). This has also helped us reduce the average time any user has to spend to get help. This has given a significant push to our customer NPS and retention rates.
How do you rally multiple teams towards a common goal?
To rally everyone behind the same goal, we need to start by talking about what’s the long-term vision we are chasing and how smaller goals will help us achieve the vision.
Once there is clarity on what needs to be done, it becomes much easier for individual teams to see their role in achieving the goals. This is especially true for developers and customer support teams.
Another thing that helps is sharing regular updates regarding the health of the business and what impact their work has had, e.g., communicating how a process change for support teams helped improve NPS.