NEW DELHI: Walmart-owned e-tailer Flipkart is set to acquire online travel aggregator Cleartrip in a distress sale with the deal likely to be announced over the next few days.
Flipkart, which is fighting a close battle with US e-tail giant Amazon for one-upmanship in India’s booming e-commerce market, will use Cleartrip to diversify and expand into other product categories, such as online bookings of hotels and flights, to boost its overall gross merchandise value (GMV).
In addition, this will give Flipkart a strong toehold in the crowded online travel space and pit the e-tailer directly against market leaders, including Makemytrip, Yatra and Booking.com.
Mumbai-headquartered Cleartrip, founded by Stuart Crighton, Hrush Bhatt and Matthew Spacie in 2006, has been severely impacted by travel restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. The acquisition of its closest rival Goibibo by Nasdaq-listed Makemytrip further dimmed its prospects in a field where margins in airline bookings are paper thin.
Cleartrip, which earns more than 80% of its revenue from airline bookings, reported a 2.5% drop in revenues in FY20, while Goibibo zoomed ahead in the same period with an 11% increase at Rs 1,595 crore, which is nearly five times that of Cleartrip’s.
The development comes close on the heels of Flipkart partnering with Ahmedabad-based Adani Group, led by tycoon Gautam Adani, to develop one of India’s largest logistics hubs and data centers.
Industry experts termed the alliance as a strategic move that will help Flipkart march against not only Amazon but Jiomart, too.
Apart from eyeing the controlling stake in Cleartrip, Bengaluru-headquartered Flipkart, which owns fashion e-tailer — Myntra, has been busy lately, picking up a 8% stake in Aditya Birla Fashion & Retail for Rs 1,500 crore and investing Rs 260 crore in Arvind Youth Brands, an arm of denim giant Arvind, that gave it rights to popular apparel brands such as Flying Machine.
While its parent Walmart consolidated its wholesale operations in India by merging the business with Flipkart, the e-tailer led significant investments in startups such as hyperlocal delivery expert — ShadowFax and fresh produce supply chain company — Ninjakart.
Cleartrip counts DAG Ventures, Gund Investment Corporation and Concur Technologies as its key investors and has last raised funds in 2016. A questionnaire emailed to a Flipkart Group spokesperson did not elicit a response.