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Walmart-owned Flipkart in talks to add Cleartrip to its shopping cart

Most large ecommerce players like Flipkart, Amazon and Paytm want to embrace the super-app strategy and be present in every business segment, be it retail, food delivery, payment services and travel. From that vantage online travel aggregator Cleartrip makes sense for Flipkart.

March 02, 2021 / 07:17 AM IST

Ecommerce company Flipkart is in discussions to purchase a controlling stake in online travel aggregator Cleartrip and bolster its presence in an intensely competitive segment, people with knowledge of the matter told

The move by Flipkart, owned by US retail behemoth Walmart, is aimed at taking on rivals MakeMyTrip, Yatra, and EaseMyTrip, among others as the domestic economy recovers and Indians who had deferred their holidays during the lockdown indulge in “revenge tourism”.

“Negotiations are on and the proposed deal is for the sale of a majority stake in Cleartrip,” said one of the persons cited above, adding that the talks may or may not necessarily fructify into a transaction.

Cleartrip’s financial performance has been hit due to travel and border restrictions imposed post the outbreak of COVID-19. Besides India, it operates in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

“This is in line with Flipkart’s strategy to diversify and expand into product lines and categories via acquisitions and drive more GMV (gross merchandise value). If it is sealed, this deal can be seen as an opportunistic acquisition in the Covid-19 era,” the person cited above added.

Walmart acquired about 77 percent of Flipkart for around  $16 billion in 2018, ratcheting up competition with Amazon Inc in the booming Indian ecommerce market.

Why Flipkart is interested in Cleartrip

Most of the large ecommerce players like Flipkart, Amazon and Paytm want to embrace the super-app strategy and have a presence in every business segment, be it retail, food delivery, payment services and travel. Amazon and Ant Financial-backed Paytm are also present in the online travel segment. In May 2019, Amazon India tied up with Cleartrip to add a flight booking option to its payment service, Amazon Pay.

To be sure, Flipkart ventured into the online travel space in April 2018 when it struck a partnership with Makemytrip to offer the latter’s travel services on its platform.

If the Cleartrip deal is sealed, Flipkart will absorb a firm with strong recall value along with its members and customer base. It will also ensure the presence of an in-house brand with direct supply of business from airlines and hotels.

“Cleartrip’s key investors, namely Concur Technologies, DAG Ventures and Gund Investment Corporation, can get an exit via this proposed transaction,” a second person told Moneycontrol. Concur Technologies is backed by German enterprise software major SAP.

Two other persons also confirmed the deal talks between both parties. Moneycontrol could not independently verify the deal valuation.

All the four individuals spoke to Moneycontrol on condition of anonymity.

Flipkart and Cleartrip did not respond to email queries sent by Moneycontrol. This article will be updated as soon as we hear from both the firms. Emails sent to Concur Technologies, DAG Ventures were left unanswered at the time of publishing this article. SAP responded saying it “does not comment on rumors or speculation.”.

Moneycontrol could not immediately connect with Gund Investment Corporation.

In October 2016, Makemytrip acquired rival Ibibo Group, backed by Naspers and Tencent, for around $1.8 billion in a sign of consolidation in the fast-growing Indian online travel industry. Tencent is also an investor in Flipkart.

The Flipkart Strategy

Flipkart has been busy stitching up deals in recent times.  In October 2020, it picked up a 7.8 percent stake in Aditya Birla Fashion & Retail for Rs 1,500 crore. Three months earlier, it had pumped in Rs 260 crore in Arvind Youth Brands, an arm of Arvind Fashions. It has also struck niche buyouts by acquiring augmented reality firm Scapic and social media gaming startup Mech Mocha.

At the company’s 2021 investment community meeting, president and CEO Doug McMillon said, “This (India) is a market where we will step on the gas to ensure we have the appropriate level of investments in areas like the supply chain.”

“We are well positioned to grow as an emerging middle class spends more money through mobile phones. In India, our momentum and potential for growth make this a unique opportunity,” McMillon added.
Ashwin Mohan
first published: Mar 1, 2021 10:30 pm