Have a d!g

“Why are you telling me?” is an obvious, honest and acceptable thought when someone moans about a substandard experience. It happens on a regular basis.

By Charlie R Neyra

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Published: Fri 22 Apr 2011, 11:02 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 7:37 AM

People love to return from a restaurant or weekend break, only to offload their detailed opinions, slowly picking apart every aspect of their time spent being cared for by a company with which you have no connection. It leads to an obvious follow-up thought — “Why not just tell the company?”

But we don’t. Thousands of meals, drinks and hotel stays are completed without the management knowing the first thing about the pleasure — or lack of it — that their customers experienced. Comments are inevitably directed towards a husband or wife, flatmate or girlfriend, colleague or neighbour; it should come as no surprise that these people are incapable of changing the experience.

Enter the web. Firmly established as a place for the planet’s information to be shared, it is the obvious environment for opinions on hotels, bars, clubs and more to be offered, but where exactly can you post and read these comments? This was the exact sentiment that Yad!g co-founder Saif Al Zarouni felt on wanting to know the best places to go to in Dubai. He says, “I was tired of going to the same place… and felt there has to be a site where you can find out the coolest places to go to in town. You have all these bars and restaurants, but at the end of day they’re not all worth the money you pay… so there had to be a way to counteract that…”

His answer? To create a social media/review-based portal where people could post comments or find reviews in order to know the “coolest places” to go. Yad!g was created. “If you go to a place and it’s dead, or the food’s bad, you have to be able to write a review, and your friends will need to know about it, so we brainstormed for about a year in development, then launched in November,” says Saif. The result is a website that focuses on five main categories — hotels, bars, nightclubs, restaurants and coffee shops — with users rating places they visit, building a clear picture of the most popular spots across all major cities of the Middle East.

Saif — an Emirati who met Khaleej Times in a crisp white dishdasha, but sounds straight out of the US due to his college days spent with Uncle Sam — works mainly in building materials, which he says was the done thing after he returned to the UAE in 2005. “I moved back from the States during the boom time, so everyone was in real estate or construction. I followed suit, started a company, but Yad!g is now taking over.”

The company has taken time to develop — longer than he originally expected. “I thought it was going to be a lot faster. I thought, you launch it and then next month it’s awesome, but it takes time.” When asked if the dream is get a deal such as the Yahoo!-Maktoob deal — that has been the biggest Middle Eastern-Silicon Valley tie-in to date — he replies, “Yeah, whose dream is not that?! But, the dream now is to get a big user base and to get a big fan base; I’ve heard it once or twice, people saying, ‘Let’s check out Yad!g,’ so to hear that more would great. We would like to become the voice of the people for the Middle East, in terms of what’s good to go to. Our goal is that if you ever step off a plane and if you want to eat, drink, stay anywhere in the world, then you’d log into Yad!g, find a place, review it and get a good experience.”

For those readers thinking about signing up to Yad!g, just remember the site’s philosophy — it’s all about honesty. As Saif says, “We want our reviews to be really honest. So, you know, if you’re having a great time, then write about it, but if you’re having to wait an hour and a half for your entrée, then feel free to slam that restaurant, then hopefully it will be able to do something about it — hopefully improve their service or reply to it on the website.”

As most people love to offload their opinions, the potential for the website is massive but reaching critical mass in regular users is the challenge. As a step to achieving that the website is launching an iPhone app next month, so people can literally step off a flight, or out of a restaurant, and upload their review immediately.

Time will tell how big Yad!g will grow, but at least you now know where to direct feedback that comes from the next person you encounter who just has to have a rant. Tell them to have a dig online.

charlie@khaleejtimes.com



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