Gurugram-based travel commerce startup Airblack has raised $1.5 Mn in a seed funding round from Asia-focussed venture capital firm, SAIF Partners.
The funds will be used to launch its consumer product, which is currently available on an invite-only basis. The company is also looking to ramp up its traveller and influencer community features and recruitment for its core team.
Founded in 2019 by Pulkit Pujara and Videt Jaiswal, Airblack is creating an end-to-end social commerce ecosystem for modern-day travellers who like to plan and travel independently, instead of relying on packaged tours. Airblack also claims to tie into the Instagram and WhatsApp ecosystem, though it’s unclear how it uses these platforms.
The company says that its community of verified travellers and travel influencers will drive recommendations on experiences, hotels, restaurants and other sights of interest for travelling. The company claims that it has already helped more than 1000 travellers create travel itineraries through the community-led approach.
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Airblack’s founders were ex-VCs at SAIF Partners and have had other entrepreneurial experience as well. About the need for a consumer-facing social travel platform such as Airblack, cofounder Videt Jaiswal said, “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.”
India is now one of the fastest growing outbound tourism markets in the world, second only to China. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates that India will account for 50 Mn outbound tourists by 2020.
Mayank Khanduja, principal, SAIF Partners, said that more and more Indians are spending on international travel as disposable incomes rise. “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 traveller,” he added.
In terms of social commerce, the marketing cost is huge since any social network is only as strong as its user base. Customer acquisition will be key for Airblack as well as the ability for its content to go viral.
At present, India is booming with social commerce as well as traveltech startups with the likes of Trivago, Guiddoo, TravelTriangle, Pickyourtrail etc banking on native social elements to push their travel business. Outbound tourism spending in India is expected to surpass $42 Bn by the end of the year 2024. Further, millennial tourists, Airblack’s primary audience, present a $100 Bn travel opportunity in India and South East Asia by 2024, which are the focus markets for the company.