What is it like to work at an internet start up like Zomato?

Zomato is one of my favourite apps. I use it locally all the time and it was one of my most used apps on my trip to London earlier in the year. Zomato is a smartphone app that connects you to restaurants in your area and around the world. The app allows you to review restaurants and also follow your friends on their food reviewing journey as well. It has a host of social features for the food lover. It’s hard to believe that Zomato was started by two guys in India who really just wanted access to restaurant menus before deciding where to eat. That was in 2008. Now Zomato operates in 18 countries and is constantly moving in to new territories. Recently they opened offices in Cape Town! (Just in time for the holidays).
The little internet start up that could is one of only a handful starting out in an emerging economy that has gone on to cement itself with a global footprint. It’s no surprise that just last month it secured more than R600 million in funding. The company is currently valued at more than R6.5 billion.
While those figures are impressive, as Zomato grows, it is still a start up. Especially when entering new territories. I’ve always thought it takes very brave people to take a bit of a risk and start to work at an internet start up. I had the chance to sit down and speak to Zara Abdulla, who handles Zomato’s Community Management, PR & Marketing in South Africa. Zara is 22 and joined Zomato after studying a BA English & Media at Wits. She told me what it is like to work at an internet start up:

You didn’t start out doing PR & Marketing for Zomato but seemed to almost shift into the role. Tell us how that happened?

Since Zomato is a start-up, it’s easy to find the roles best suited with regard to personality, age and skill. Even though I started in sales I was able to apply for and move to the PR position shortly after. Since I studied media, I think the role is better suited to my interests as well as my long term goals. I am so glad I switched, I absolutely love it!

Working in a start up tends to involve having to wear lots of different hats. Is your job only PR focused or do you get to do other functions as well?

The great part about working at a start up is that the structure is flat. No one feels that anything is beneath them. Everyone chips in to help in order to get things done and attain the best results. So whether it’s fetching doughnuts for the office, calling service providers when the network is giving trouble, or participating in important meetings, everyone has an equal opportunity to be able to engage in all aspects of the business. With our set-up, we are all interdependent – the sales managers need to have content updated, if the content analysts need to have a menu urgently, they can always ask a sales manager to fetch it for them. I liaise with the sales managers often with regard to our community meetups and the vouchers we give away. When we are part of events everyone participates and helps. We are really lucky to work with such enthusiastic, kind people.

Were you at all nervous going to work at a start up? Especially considering the fail rate of new businesses?

Not at all. Zomato is such a great platform, I was really excited to be a part of something that has so much potential. Since I started in January, we have grown exponentially. Our traffic reaches a new high every week. People know about and use Zomato frequently… It is so rewarding to get great feedback.

Best part about your job?

Planning community meetups and meeting new bloggers. It is always fun. The foodies and bloggers love it and it always ends up being very memorable for all.

Zomato SA has a lot of young faces on staff. Do you think this is the start up culture or just the nature of the app and business surrounding it?

It’s definitely a bit of both. Start up culture requires energetic people willing to put in the extra hours to make things happen. At the same time, Zomato is based online and involves new technology so it is more natural for younger folk to be a part of. We also enjoy providing opportunities for people without a substantial amount of work experience to grow with us.

I'd love to chat to you some more.


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