American consumers have long since forgotten when booking travel was like a treasure hunt. Instead of having to search through countless sites and offers to get a single trip off the ground, the Expedias of the world have managed to aggregate much of that work into single-serve platforms — thus making it easy to tap and swipe one's way to a customized vacation.
The situation in India, however, was somewhat different until very recently. In the absence of such a one-stop shop for holiday travel, the treasure hunt for travel was on.
The Indian economy is one of the world's faster-developing, boasting an increasingly emergent middle class and a friction-filled commerce system for vacation booking. That flawed commerce system was not just inconveniencing consumers, but also blowing opportunities for commerce since customers worldwide have united in their desire not to endure such challenges.
According to an industry report from global research and analytics firm Aranca, India’s travel and tourism market — including domestic and international inbound travel — was estimated at $27.5 billion in 2016, a figure that is widely forecast to exceed $30 billion by the end of this year.
But, where there is a hole in commerce there is also a company waiting to be the plug. In this case, that plug is Bona Vita, according to CEO Amitabh Misra.
Bona Vita, which Misra first founded in 2015, is the parent firm behind Bona Vita Technologies and travel marketplace GoFro.
Misra is far from an India eCommerce novice: Before founding GoFro, he served as CTO of Indian eCommerce marketplace Snapdeal. When it came to creating innovative solutions, Misra said the opportunity and need in the travel area of the marketplace was just so glaringly obvious.
“GoFro wants to become India's first and largest travel marketplace,” Misra said. “It will change the whole ecosystem which is currently very fragmented. Now, the power lies in the hands of the consumer. They don’t have to spend a lot of time visiting different websites and travel agents — they can simply visit GoFro [and] compare packages by all the travel agents. Booking a travel package will be as simple as booking a flight ticket from any flight aggregator. It will also help travel companies to understand the consumer in competitive markets and offer [the] best deals to acquire new customers.”
To build that vision, Misra noted, GoFro has been largely powered by partnerships from day one. The firm secured $5 million in seed funding from MakeMyTrip, India's largest online travel operator, while still in stealth mode. MakeMyTrip snapped up a controlling stake in the venture through that investment.
And, investment interest has only grown. GoFro recently announced it had notched nearly $10 million (Rs 64 crore) in its second round of equity financing, led by Japanese travel major HIS Co, with further participation from original investor MakeMyTrip.
“Given the relationship with HIS, one of Japan's leading travel companies, we expect to enter the country over the course of the next two quarters,” Misra noted. “We are also evaluating other international markets at the same time.”
In fact, because the firm is so strongly focused on growth at present, the Series B round, as announced, may not represent the end of its fundraising adventures. Misra said the company is considering other potential strategically and financially useful investor pairings.
“Given that we are looking to grow and move into newer markets, we do lean more towards strategic investors who we feel bring more to the table compared to pure financial investors,” Misra noted. He left his remarks there, citing confidentiality agreements with future potential investors.
The firm has, however, disclosed what it intended to do with those recently raised funds. Unsurprisingly, it will be putting the money back into the firm as it works to expand the offerings behind its tech platform as well as its international footprint.
As of today (Sept. 12), GoFro records approximately $1 million in transactions per month and usually more than 1,000 individual purchases. But, what will they be booking tomorrow? Stay tuned — the company has some aggressive plans to exponentially increase that figure.