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SAIF Partners bets on startup founded by former members of own investment team
Photo Credit: VCCircle

Venture capital and growth-equity investment firm SAIF Partners has invested in a startup floated by former members of its own investment team.

SAIF Partners pumped in $1.5 million (Rs 10.4 crore) in Airblack Technologies Pvt. Ltd as part of the social-travel commerce startup's seed round of funding, according to a joint statement.

Airblack will use the funds to launch its consumer product, ramp up its traveller community and expand its team.

The startup was set up in February by Pulkit Pujara and Videt Jaiswal. It uses popular social media platforms Instagram and WhatsApp to help connect users with a verified network of travellers on a personal chat to exchange information and seek recommendations on travel plans.

Airblack has helped more than 1,000 travellers with their travel plans so far, the statement said.

"Over $600 billion is spent on international travel in Asia, and we see India's international travel market at an inflection point already," said Mayank Khanduja, principal, SAIF Partners. "With increasing disposable income, spend on international travel will go up. And these users will look for social validation online before deciding on a high involvement purchase like travel," he added.

Airblack co-founder Jaiswal said that though plenty of travel content on Instagram and blogs has made travellers more confident, it has also created a problem of information overload. "We are focused on creating a strong trust layer in this category," he explained.

Both Jaiswal and Pujara were part of the investment team at SAIF Partners before launching Airblack. They had worked for about three years each.

Jaiswal, a graduate of Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology (NSIT), Delhi, earlier worked with Boston Consulting Group. He also founded in 2012 digital media venture University Express Media, which was acquired by influencer marketing company One Impression in 2018. 

Pujara, a graduate of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, had previously worked at online grocer Grofers and Deutsche Bank.

Deals in the travel-tech segment

The travel-tech segment has recorded at least three funding deals this year. 

In April, travel itinerary portal Tripoto.com raised fresh capital for expansion from new and existing investors in its Series B round of funding. 

In March, Guiddoo World Travels Pvt. Ltd raised fresh funding from two new investors.

PickYourTrail, a startup that helps travellers plan and book multi-country vacations online, raised close to $3 million (Rs 21 crore then) in its Series A funding round in February.

SAIF Partners

The investment firm has been active in India for over a decade and prides itself for having taken a bunch of private firms, including MakeMyTrip Ltd and Just Dial Ltd, to the public market.

SAIF Partners had raised $350 million (Rs 2,247 crore) for a new fund in July 2017. It is the firm’s third India-focussed vehicle and its size is almost the same as its previous two India funds.

The firm chases investments in sectors such as consumer products and services, technology, media, education, telecom, financial services, healthcare, travel and tourism, and manufacturing. It typically invests between $2 million and $75 million in one or more rounds in its portfolio companies. It has also built an active public equities portfolio.

Last week, it invested in pre-owned cars platform Spinny. 

Earlier this year, VCCircle reported that SAIF made a seed-stage investment in an online hyperlocal news platform co-founded by a former executive at vernacular social network ShareChat.

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