Restaurant search service Zomato has acquired fellow Indian company Sparse Labs, a logistics technology startup specializing in helping restaurants track delivery drivers, allocate orders to the most suitable delivery person based on location, and show customers where their order is in real time.
Founded in 2008, Zomato offers an online search service for 30 million restaurant-seekers in 20 countries, serving up information such as menus, photos, and locations, with users able to submit reviews and ratings. The company has raised more than $200 million in VC funding since its inception, and it expanded into the U.S. last year with the acquisition of Urbanspoon. However, some months later, news emerged that Zomato was laying off many of its U.S. employees and was refocusing its efforts where it was already a market leader and doing well.
Zomato has made a number of acquisitions over the past couple of years, including NexTable, a U.S.-based startup that offers a restaurant reservation and table-management platform (similar to OpenTable). But Zomato’s move to acquire a logistics technology company is notable, as it mirrors the offerings of a number of other food-delivery companies. Indeed, companies such as Deliveroo (in Europe) make it easy for restaurants and customers to view drivers’ location in real time, meaning hungry customers can always see where their food is, and kitchens can be sure they’re using the nearest driver for delivery.
Sparse Labs’ smarts include a web dashboard, APIs, driver apps, customer notifications, maps, and more. It’s all about helping restaurants optimize their operations to minimize friction between receiving an order and delivering it to the customer. There is also an additional proprietary GPS tracker built by Sparse Labs that can be fitted to bikes, meaning restaurants can always see where a rider is — regardless of whether their phone is switched on.
“Joining forces with Sparse Labs will allow us to significantly improve the food ordering experience on the app, by giving users real-time GPS-based status updates on their order,” explained Zomato founder and CEO Deepinder Goyal , in a blog post. “While we were already working on making this feature available for deliveries handled by our logistics partners, Sparse Labs will now help us enable delivery tracking for restaurant-owned fleets as well. At the restaurant end, this technology will help make deliveries highly cost- and time-efficient, allowing them to optimize delivery routes and ensuring minimal wait time for riders.”
Following the acquisition, Sparse Labs will be rebranded as Zomato Trace and will be made available to restaurants “soon.”