Zomato expands NZ operation

LAURA WALTERS
Last updated 10:42 11/12/2013

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Online restaurant guide and review platform Zomato will launch in Hamilton next week after its success in Auckland and Wellington.

Zomato opened in New Zealand four months ago as part of a rapid global growth plan for the India-based start-up.

Zomato New Zealand's country manager and head of the company's international expansion team, Sahil Ludhani, said the site was primarily aimed at locals. That made Hamilton a logical pick after Auckland and Wellington, rather than tourist destinations such as Queenstown.

The company planned to open in Tauranga in February and break into the South Island by the end of next year, he said.

The company has more than 5000 restaurants from Auckland and Wellington listed on its site.

Ludhani said the company had invested $300,000 in the New Zealand market to date, but would be happy to invest up to $1.5 million by the time it had finished its expansion plans in the country.

The company was happy with revenue in the past four months and expected to break even in about a year, he said.

Zomato started with three staff in New Zealand in September and now has a team of 15, 12 of whom are New Zealanders.

Ludhani said the aim was to have 25 people working for the company in New Zealand.

The New Zealand market was a good fit for Zomato because it lacked a similar product, he said.

Ludhani said the site's point of difference was its reviewer verification and ranking system.

Zomato staff monitored the content on the site to make sure reviewers were authentic and reviews were legitimate and fair, he said.

Amazon-owned internet traffic ranking site Alexa had Zomato ranked 134th in New Zealand, ahead of competitors Menumania, Localist and Yelp, Ludhani said.

Zomato launched in New Zealand before Australia because restaurants were more open to the concept, he said.

"New Zealand people are more accepting of new ideas."

Zomato ran its operations out of Auckland but was working on opening a Wellington office, he said.

Other than capital investment, Zomato was funded by online advertising, he said.

Ludhani said restaurants, bars or cafes did not pay to have their business reviewed, but they had the option of advertising on the site.

The company also offered "hyper-localised" advertising to businesses that wanted to target a specific suburb, he said.

The company did not stop reviewers posting critical reviews as long as they were legitimate and fair, Ludhani said.

Zomato's staff visited every restaurant it listed, gathering photos and menus.

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The company, which started in New Delhi five years ago, had been expanding aggressively, Ludhani said.

Zomato raised $37m last month from American venture capital firm Sequoia Capital and about $16m from Indian online classified listing business Info Edge previously, he said.

The site has almost 200,000 listings in 11 countries.

It was looking to expand into another 22 countries using the venture capital funding, Ludhani said.

- Fairfax Media

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