MakeMyTrip buys VC-backed travel-tech startup Mygola

The country's top online travel agency MakeMyTrip Ltd has acquired certain assets of Mygola.com for an undisclosed amount and the entire Mygola team has joined MakeMyTrip as part of the deal, it said on Tuesday.

This acquisition was done through the NASDAQ-listed company’s Innovation Fund, which was formed to invest in startup or early-stage companies in the travel technology space. MakeMyTrip had created a $15 million fund in September last year and made maiden investment from the vehicle in January this year by picking a small minority stake in Bangalore-based travel tech startup Simplotel Technologies Pvt Ltd (Simplotel) for an undisclosed amount.

The Mygola deal shows the fund would not limit itself to small minority stake transactions.

“The company (MMT) expects that Mygola’s team’s deep understanding of travellers’ planning and in-destination experience preferences will be valuable in strengthening the company’s proposition in these and related areas of customer engagement,” the firm said.

Founded by Anshuman Bapna and Prateek Sharma in 2009, Bangalore- and US-based travel tech startup Mygola was started as pre-planning travel tech startup which used the web platform with a question-and-answer-based model for information-sharing and working out travel arrangements. The firm pivoted in 2013 to make travel itineraries based on expert blogs.

Mygola built a website and an app that covers more than 20,000 destinations worldwide and claims half a million organic visitors a month. Mygola built proprietary technology to mine the travel web, filed patents on route optimisation and collected metadata for millions of travel items and thousands of itineraries. It also pioneered a unique crowd-sourced model for curating travel data.

Mygola pivoted for the second time last year to focus on creating last-minute, in-destination to-do list and even book them, all through the mobile as it felt it was easier to monetise users who use its app on the go.

The firm integrated its app with Uber for cab booking besides others for restaurant reservation. It also has a roster of people who crowd-source live information about events in the vicinity. These people are paid as much as Rs 5,000 per month for spending an hour a day on updating information.

Since users book everything from attractions to restaurants and cabs from within the app, the company makes money through a commission every time a transaction happens. For restaurant booking, it charges $1 per diner and between 5 and 10 per cent from cabs, etc. It also charges 5 per cent from end users as convenience fee.

In the original model, Mygola used to generate revenues from users asking questions besides earning a commission for bookings.

Mygola had secured $1.5 million in Series A round of funding led by Helion Venture Partners, with participation from existing investor Blumberg Capital way back in October 2013. Prior to that in December 2011, the company had secured $1 million from 500Startups founder Dave McClure, Blumberg Capital and a few angel investors.

Given the size of the Innovation Fund of MakeMyTrip, the acquisition would not have resulted in any big exit for Mygola investors.

For MakeMyTrip, this comes as another inorganic expansion move. In February 2014, it had acquired EasyToBook.com Group for $5 million. Established in 2004, ETB operates through the website Easytobook.com and offers its customers online hotel reservations in Europe, North America and other key global travel destinations. Headquartered in Amsterdam, Netherlands, the company also has a technology development team based in Herzliya, Israel.

In November 2012, it had acquired the Hotel Travel Group (HT Group) for $25 million. The HT Group, under the brand ‘Hotel Travel’, had been operating the website www.hoteltravel.com for more than a decade in Southeast Asia, although its booking platform offers hotel reservation across the world. In the same month, the company had also acquired an effective majority equity interest in Thai hotel aggregator comprising a group of companies known as the ITC Group for $3.2 million. The ITC Group comprised International Tour Center Co Ltd, ITC Bangkok Co Ltd and ITC South Co Ltd.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)

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