Asia-focused VC firm SAIF Partners has invested $1.5 million in New Delhi based social-travel commerce start-up, Airblack. Started in February earlier this year by Pulkit Pujara and Videt Jaiswal, Airblack leverages WhatsApp and Instagram ecosystem to connect travelers with verified network of power travelers and travel influencers. The seed round will be utilised for launching its product, ramping up its traveler community and hiring of a core team.
Millennials today like to speak and consult with travellers they trust before taking all travel-related decisions. Most of them already ask for travel recommendations from their friends or influencers on social media. Building on this behaviour, Airblack is redefining how travel is planned and booked by the new-age millennial traveler. The platform has already helped more than 1000 travellers with their travel plans.
This is the latest early-stage investment announced by SAIF Partners, which manages over $4 billion in assets across India & China. The multi-stage, sector agnostic fund has earlier backed Paytm, MakeMyTrip, Meesho, ShareChat, Swiggy and Urbanclap at an early-stage. Besides MakeyMyTrip, SAIF has invested in other travel startups such as Treebo and Travel Triangle.
"Over $600 billion is spent on international travel in Asia, and we see India's international travel market at an inflection point already. We strongly believe that a large wave of the new consumer demand in travel will be led by people who like to have independence in planning their trips. 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. We were impressed by the team's unique insights and community-driven approach to cater to this traveler," says Mayank Khanduja, Principal, SAIF Partners.
"Lot of content on platforms such as Instagram and travel blogs has made travellers more confident to travel but at the same time, it has also created a problem of information overload, that leads to anxiety and confusion. We saw there is a strong social need in travellers here to talk to other travellers before taking purchase decisions, and an aversion to talk to travel agents because they are not relatable to this audience. We are focused on creating a strong trust layer in this category,” says Videt, co-founder, Airblack.
In the last five years, travel companies have raised more than $1 billion in venture capital funding. That includes short-term rental startups, travel and tourism apps, marketplaces for “experiences” and other travel or hospitality tech platforms.
Founded in 2019 by Pulkit Pujara and Videt Jaiswal, Airblack is a New Delhi based social-travel commerce startup that is connecting users with verified network of power travelers and travel influencers on a personal chat for exchanging recommendations around their travel plans. The platform currently leverages Instagram and WhatsApp ecosystem and is in private-beta.
Pulkit and Videt were both ex-VCs at SAIF Partners. While Pulkit had stints earlier at Grofers and Deutsche Bank and is a graduate from IIT Delhi, Videt has earlier worked at Boston Consulting Group and co-founded a content startup, and is a graduate from NSIT.
Prior to starting Airblack, Pulkit was a part of the investment team at SAIF Partners for about 3 years. He has earlier worked at Grofers as an AVP Operations, where he led business expansion into multiple cities and also led 500+ people-strong south-zone operations team. He has also worked at Deutsche Bank and graduated from IIT Delhi.Videt has also worked with SAIF Partners in the investment team for about 3 years and had an earlier stint at the Boston Consulting Group. Earlier to this, he co-founded a digital media venture where he was managing editorial and community teams in 250+ campuses, and eventually sold it to an influencer marketing company. He is a graduate of NSIT, Delhi.
SAIF Partners is a leading venture capital firm which provides seed, early, and growth stage capital for emerging companies in India and China. SAIF began partnering with entrepreneurs in India in 2002 and has backed various companies since then including market leaders like MakeMyTrip (NASDAQ listed, online travel), JustDial (NSE listed, online classifieds), PayTM (e-commerce and payments), BookMyShow (events ticketing), Rivigo (logistics), Swiggy (online food ordering app), ShareChat (social networking) among others.
The fund is led by managing partner Ravi Adusumalli, along with six managing directors Deepak Gaur, Vishal Sood, Alok Goel, Mukul Arora, Mridul Arora, Vivek Mathur. The firm has a portfolio of companies in the consumer, education, finance, healthcare internet, IT services, logistics, mobile amongst others. Offices are in Gurgaon and Bengaluru.