Delhi-based First Time Travellers Ltd, which operates luxury hotel aggregation startup icanstay.com, has signed an ad-for-equity deal worth Rs 12 crore ($1.8 million) with media company HT Media Ltd, a co-founder of the startup told VCCircle.
Co-founder Avneet Soni also said that the company has raised Rs 2.25 crore in equity funding from Manoj Prasad, an angel investor and founder of Singapore-based investment firm MP Morgan Pte Ltd.
The startup will use the funds to expand into new cities and for marketing efforts, Soni explained.
The voucher-based accommodation portal was launched in February this year by Soni and Puneet Gupta, who is the startup’s chief operating officer.
“This investment will help us increase our footprint and inventory. Further, we are continuously strengthening our product offering and user experience. We are targeting a turnover of Rs 700 crore by 2020,” Gupta said.
Customers can purchase an open voucher for Rs 2,999 (inclusive of GST) and can stay in a four or five-star hotel. Currently, the startup claims to be present in 42 cities in more than 150 luxury hotels and plans to expand to 100 cities in the next six months. The vouchers are valid for 11 months and are refundable and extendable.
icanstay.com acquires unsold room inventory from luxury hotels and offers them to customers.
The price of Rs 2,999 for the vouchers remains unchanged, irrespective of season and city.
“We see tremendous growth opportunities in the travel and hospitality space in India. First Time Travellers is a startup with a unique model that brings value to all its stakeholders – customers as well as hotels, and is well positioned for growth. We are excited to partner with such an exceptional management team and continue to build and grow this business over the long term,” angel investor Prasad said.
Since its launch in February 2017, icanstay.com claims to have received over 5 lakh unique visitors. The startup claims to have 22,000 registered users and to have sold over 5,000 vouchers so far.
HT Media competes with Brand Capital, the ad-for-equity arm of Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd (BCCL), which is better known as the Times Group. While BCCL generates most of its revenue from advertisements, Brand Capital drives a significant part of that revenue for the deal making unit. Another BCCL unit that makes investments is Times Internet Ltd, which acquires stakes in tech firms in media and entertainment.
An analysis by VCCircle last month showed that BCCL, along with Brand Capital and Times Internet, struck 301 deals between January 2015 and November 2017, making the unit one of the most prolific PE-VC investors.
HT Media, which is primarily engaged in the publishing business, is an active investor in the e-commerce sector.
In December last year, VCCircle reported that the ad-for-equity arm sold 10% of its investment in London-based fashion portal Koovs Plc and made a quick partial exit by taking advantage of the surge in the share price.