TECH TALK: Thinking A New Food Portal: A Wishlist

The past few years have seen the emergence of many new technologies which promise to change the way we consume content, in much the same way as the combination of iPods and iTunes has transformed the way many consume music. Cellphones are now micro-computers with always-on connections to the Internet, broadband connections can download video clips quickly, and blogs and RSS are creating an easier way to publish and subscribe to content. So, how can all of this impact the world of Indian food portals? Lets imagine the future. What if we could get

Improved Search: The ability to search by ingredients would be extremely useful. So, I should be able to identify the items that I have, and see what can be made out of those? While a brute-force text search can do the same thing, a better way would be to use XML to capture the ingredient data and then build search around it.

Calorie Information: In a world where there is an increasing emphasis on eating the right stuff, nutritional information becomes especially important. For each recipe, it would be good to get additional details like calorie count, with break-up in terms of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

Recipes on Mobiles: While SMS is still quite limiting with its 160-character cap, the new generation of phones are increasingly coming equipped with Internet access. This means that the portal needs to be browsable on cellphones. SMS could still be used to deliver tips and other microcontent.

Videos: There are many TV programmes (especially on Sunday afternoon) which show how to make specific food items. The problem is that these are not available when we want them. Give the increase in broadband connections, such video content can now be made available on-demand. So, imagine seeing Saroj demonstrate the entire process of making the Daal Baati, rather than just having textual information with photos.

RSS: Food portals should publish RSS feeds for their incrementally updated content. Even though the RSS aggregators and users are still a small fraction of users, over time more and more content is likely to be get consumed in aggregators.

Community: Involving the readers is an extremely important element of the next-generation food portal. This needs to start with reviews and ratings, and extend to contributions like the way Recipezaar has done (it now has nearly 100,000 recipes). The site could also play host to food blogs. Building a community around the portal is very essential for viral marketing for the website, and is one of the key requirements for sustained long-term success.

Information Marketplace: Think of a cross between Craigs List (classifieds) and yellow pages. This can be used to find restaurants in the neighbourhood, and for food-makers (imagine individuals cooking cakes and the like, and selling via this marketplace).

Multiple Languages: Recipes need to be translated to other languages so as to make them available to larger audiences.

These are just a few ideas to begin with. Food is a rich-enough vertical to then also extend into adjacent spaces restaurants and diet plans are two such examples.

Tomorrow: Recipe Web

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.