It was my first week at Zomato. The Zomato Dubai team had cracked their first hotel client for banners by bringing Grand Hyatt on board. But we needed more big brand names to have any kind of leverage in the market. We were yet to crack a deal with the Marriott in Dubai, and in my second week, Kedar managed to schedule a meeting with their head of e-commerce for the Middle East. I was asked to come along for the experience, even though I had absolutely no idea how to pitch properly to a hotel. Little did we know what we were letting ourselves in for.
Before the meeting, we did as much prep and research as possible. To be honest, we didn’t know how this would go at all. For all we knew, we might get laughed out of the building despite all our prep. Once we got there, we made some small talk and then launched into a full-fledged Zomato sales pitch. We were stopped dead in our tracks by Aftab, our point of contact at Marriott.
“I don’t want to know anything about Zomato yet. First, I want to know more about both of you.”
So we told him. How we got here, what we were doing before Zomato, and shared some crazy stories too. After an hour of chatting, he said “I like you guys, and I want to work with you. Let me take you on a tour of our brand new hotel, the Marriott Marquis. Do you have any other meetings scheduled for today?”
We naively answered ‘no’. Note that at this point, we still haven’t discussed anything about them doing business with Zomato.
The Marriott Marquis has 16 restaurants, including one ballroom and a lounge. We were taken to every single outlet. We were introduced to the team, including the chefs, and we chatted with all of them. After so much ooh-ing and ahh-ing at all of the outlets, running out of adjectives, and what felt like a year later, we reached the end of the tour. Aftab clapped his hands and said as he walked us to the exit, “Guys, it was a pleasure meeting you both, and we should definitely catch up outside of work one day for drinks. I have to go now.”
We were horrified. After a monstrous 6-hour meeting, we wouldn’t even get to so much as mentioning what Zomato is.
It was at this point I learned the meaning of hustle — one of our favourite words at Zomato.
Kedar opened his laptop (I think it was a lovely Lenovo notebook at the time!) in the middle of the lobby, and started pitching on the spot. Aftab got it right away, and arranged for a second meeting with the GM of the hotel to take things forward.
We walked out of the hotel completely exhausted, but knew we had secured that all-important next step. I learned that day that hustle means you never stop. We could have easily said our goodbyes to Aftab, walked out of the building, and patiently waited for the next meeting to be set up on its own. But at Zomato, we don’t have to wait on tomorrow. Today is when we get things done.
After a long battle, Kedar got the Marriott on board, and we were able to secure closures for multiple hotels and chains by leveraging their brand and their awesome results. If he hadn’t taken out his laptop at the end of that meeting, who knows how long it could have taken us to start securing the other hotels!