Digital payments major Paytm has entered into discussions to acquire online travel company Via.com as it doubles down on its travel and hospitality business, taking on established firms such as the Nasdaq-listed MakeMyTrip and Yatra. One97 Communications, the parent company of Paytm, is reportedly in talks to acquire Bengaluru-based online travel company Via.com. The acquisition will be in a bid to strengthen the travel and hospitality services offered by Paytm.

Bengaluru-based Via.com, which is backed by venture capital investors including IndoUS Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital, has raised about USD 15 million in funding. Founded in 2007, the company formerly known as FlightRaja has 100,000 active travel partners across 2,600 towns and cities, and covers more than 13,000 pin codes across Asia. Via is a distributor of transportation ticketing, accommodation reservation, packaged tours, corporate travel management, travel ancillaries, retail and financial services. The company claims to have a comprehensive suite of travel & retail products and growing set of financial services products.

Through this deal, Paytm will look to make its presence felt against existing giants like MakeMyTrip (along with its combined entity Goibibo), Yatra, iXigo, ClearTrip etc. in the Indian online travel, moving the sector to another level of maturity.

Paytm’s travel business crossed annualized gross merchandise volume (GMV), or gross sales, of USD 500 million in January, driven by bookings of two million tickets that month. The Noida-headquartered company, which also counts Chinese ecommerce behemoth Alibaba Group and affiliates as well as SAIF Partners among its backers, has projected annualised GMV of USD 2 billion for its travel business by March.

Past one year has seen Paytm in hyper-expansion mode through its investments across different sectors. It was recently in advanced discussions to acquire deals platforms Nearby and Little. In July, it was reported that Paytm Mall, spun out from parent One97 Communications this year to an entity called Paytm E-commerce, had initiated discussions to pick up a stake in online grocer BigBasket.

With the acquisition of Via, Paytm will look to strengthen its travel vertical. Since Via has a presence in International markets in Asia, if the acquisition goes through, it will automatically set up Paytm’s hold in these markets and hence provide a clear way for international expansion in other categories.

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Shivani Pandita

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