iXiGO & Ezeego are good companies in terms of content, but we are better when it comes to technology: Jackson Fernandez, head, Wego India
Singapore-based Wego Pte Ltd, which came to India with a merger with HolidayIQ, decided to part ways with the latter and launched an independent metasearch portal Wego.co.in early this year. The company, which raised $17 million in Series C funding led by Crescent Point and Victoria Capital with participation from existing investor Tiger Global, has been steadily growing since launching and is now looking to add more features and revenue streams to its platform.
In a chat with Techcircle.in, Wego India's general manager Jackson Fernandez talks about the firm's future plans. Here are the excerpts:
In June this year, you secured $17 million to take the total funding to $36 million. Why do you need this much money? What percentage of this capital has come to India?
We have been in India for one-and-a-half years and have been growing at a steady pace. Although this funding was raised by our parent company in Singapore, a significant portion of this has come to India. However, I cannot share the details as we are a private company.
We have been using the fund for ramping up the team and also to add more features so that our customers get a better user experience while searching for hotels, flights, etc. We have added a few more revenue streams already and have expended the team to a 15-member one and may add five-six more.
What kind of features and revenue models have you added to the platform recently? How these streams add to overall revenues?
Our key revenue stream has always been metasearch for hotels and flights. However, we are exploring new opportunities to generate more revenues and enhance growth. We recently added a series of new revenue streams, including bus & cab booking, premium listings, holiday rentals and a new adverting model for hotels to retarget online travel booking customers. All these have been seeing fairly good traction.
With the bus & cab booking feature, users can search for various operators and go and book for cheaper and better service. It is almost similar to the flight search feature. The premium listing, which contributes just a small portion to the revenues, is for hotels which can list on our site for a fee. Holiday rentals is an alternative to regular hotel stay and we have partnered with various OTAs which in turn list the inventory of various home stays and guest houses from across the country. We generate leads for them and based on that they share revenues with us.
In an interview with Techcircle.in, you claimed that Wego India was seeing rapid growth with visits tripling since launch and revenue increasing 446 per cent. Has it increased further? Can you please share the revenue details?
The number of visits has increased to an average of one-two million per month, almost 80 per cent of which are unique visitors. It can go up to 2.5 million in holiday seasons. We also see almost 15-20 per cent revenue growth month on month. Besides, we also have increased the inventory and added more hotels and partnered with more OTAs.
We are now making the platform more customisable for our users. As part of that, we recently launched the portal in 10 regional languages that include Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Bengali, Kannada and Gujarati. However, most of the bookings are still done through our English language portal.
There are other players such as iXiGO and Ezeego which are operating in the same space. How stiff is the competition?
Every company has its own USP. Unlike these sites, we have a global footprint and have a better inventory. We have more number of partnerships with hotels and airline operators and so our reach is wider. I think iXiGO and Ezeego are good companies in terms of content, but we are better than them when it comes to the technology. Besides, ours is a transaction-driven platform.
We are not focusing on competition. We do our business and try to make the platform more vibrant by bringing in more innovation.
What is your view on the Indian market? What opportunities do you see here? Do you think the behaviour of the Indian customer is changing?
When we came to India, we believed Indian customers are price-sensitive. However, as the company grew, we realised that the behaviour of Indian users has changed. They are now looking for more value when it comes to booking for hotels and flights.
India is growing and I am very bullish about this market. We are now aggressively focusing on this market and are planning to launch new marketing campaigns, including TV commercials by the first quarter of next year. Most of our business comes from metro cities such as Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai.
Has your funding already been exhausted? When will you look to raise a fresh round of funding?
I am not in a position to talk about funding related matters. I will introduce you to our CEO Ross Veitch when he comes to India next time and you can ask him about funding and revenue figures. What I can tell you is that we have still some money left in our reserve, which will be used to launch aggressive marketing campaigns.