uEngage aspires to be Shopify for restaurants in India

If you’re a new restaurant owner, you will probably get your joint listed on Zomato and Swiggy at the earliest. The listing helps with instant discoverability in the operational area and access to the delivery fleet among other benefits. The catch, however, is the steep commission charges restaurant owners have to pay these food aggregator platforms. This is one of the reasons why you see different pricing on Zomato and restaurants’ own menu cards. 

Chandigarh-based uEngage is looking to fix this exact problem for restaurant owners in the country. The startup offers a wide range of services such as Edge (which lets you start your own ordering app), Flash (which helps manage deliveries and riders), and Prism (which helps automate marketing). The startup is also active on ONDC, enabling businesses to join the open network for digital commerce. 

We spoke to uEngage CEO and founder Sameer Sharma to learn more about his platform, what it is trying to accomplish, and future roadmap. Here are the edited excerpts:

What are the key problems that uEngage is trying to address?

When Zomato, Swiggy, and other aggregators entered the picture, we couldn’t understand why they kept increasing commissions and pressuring merchants. Initially, it was 14%, which seemed high. Now, it’s beyond 22% for a major list of merchants, with some newer brands facing rates up to 32-35%. But that’s just the beginning. Beyond base commissions, there are additional costs like payment gateway charges, marketing click payments, often without clear, and cancellation charges without go ahead from the merchant.

Recently, I met a leading Zomato-listed restaurant in Chandigarh. Despite generating sales worth Rs 30 lakh, they received only Rs 14.91 lakh, over 50% of their revenue. This has been happening for a while, and this is why we started uEngage. 

While aggregators offer great technology, demand generation, and modern logistics, there are downsides. Merchants lose control over brand positioning, customer relationship and face significant financial constraints. While aggregators aren’t necessarily evil, there’s much at stake for restaurants in the given circumstances.

Please touch upon how the platform works, and how your growth has been so far?

uEngage is Like Shopify for restaurants. Being a food-specific platform, we have been able to go deeper and offer extensive plug n play solutions to our restaurant partners. Initially launched as digital ordering platform for restaurants, uEngage has extended the platform into 3 different products covering: 

Direct Ordering (Mobile Apps, SEO First Websites, WhatsApp Ordering and KIOSk Ordering) – uEngage EDGE

Customer Marketing and Omni Channel Loyalty – uEngage PRISM

Last Mile Delivery and Tracking (Self Delivery and 3PL) – uEngage Flash

At one end we have integrated industry leading POS and Billing Players like Petpooja , POSIST, Urban Piper, TM Bill, etc. to make life simpler for outlet staff, on the other end, we work closely with leading logistics players such as Dunzo, Zomato Xtreme (Zomato’s B2B service), Shadowfax, Loadshare, and Rapido. Together, they form a comprehensive Direct Ordering stack, including commerce, marketing, and logistics components. This ecosystem enables us to provide a holistic solution to our clients.

As far as our financial growth goes, last year, our revenue stood at Rs 5.7 crore. This year, we anticipate closing it around Rs 13 crore to Rs 14 crore.  

This year, we’re projecting a GMV of around Rs 310 crore rupees for our brands. Orders from partner platforms to our revenue; they belong to the respective brands. However, they contribute to the GMV we generate for them. Our focus as a bootstrap company remains on profitability, and we’ve been profitable for more than two years now. Regarding our partnerships, we currently work with close to 4,000 outlets for our Direct Ordering Business and overall 15000+ Outlets for all our offerings including ONDC.

What are your plans for the ONDC network?

The ONDC is still at a nascent stage but a significant contributor to our revenue. Currently, we have around 15,000 outlets. Our target is to reach 50,000 outlets within the next three to four quarters.

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