As Traveloka drops off from the once-hot special purpose acquisition company race, a $200 million funding would stand the travel tech unicorn in good stead, in case it decides to take the conventional IPO route.
After plans earlier last year to go public through a special acquisition company (SPAC) fizzled, Indonesia’s Traveloka is said to be in talks for another funding round of more than $200 million. The online travel unicorn has so far raised a total of $1.2 billion in funding across six rounds, the latest being the $250 million led by Qatar Investment Authority in July 2020.
“Unfortunately, we cannot comment on market speculation,” said a source from Traveloka while responding to Skift’s query on the funding news.
Traveloka is undoubtedly the most popular and biggest online travel agency in Indonesia with a market share of 43 percent. The travel unicorn, along with Agoda and Booking.com, also dominates the online travel agency industry in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, according to a Skift Research in 2021.
The company has built itself in recent years from a pure tech operation into a wider services company, through a series of acquisitions, including most recently into financial tech. It remains primarily rooted in e-commerce, with a focus still on travel. This funding will certainly help it grow those businesses and its valuation, to keep it positioned for an IPO should that become an attractive option again.
As for the new funding, Investment management agency BlackRock and the Indonesia Investment Authority, a newly-formed sovereign wealth fund owned by the Indonesian government, is in talks to enter this round of funding, reports suggest.
BlackRock and Indonesia Investment Authority are yet to back to Skift’s queries on their investment plans in Traveloka.
If Indonesia Investment Authority comes onboard this will be its first investment in a tech company. The wealth fund has so far raised $25.5 billion since its inception in February 2021.
Indonesia Investment Authority has been looking to invest in projects that will support the country’s sustainable development while being commercially viable, a senior official had earlier said.
While Traveloka is yet to make a profit, pumping money into it would mark a deviation for the wealth fund and may be considered a high-risk investment, deterring future and potential investors, experts said.
Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC, Expedia Group and Chinese online retailer JD.com are some of the early investors in Indonesia’s leading travel unicorn. Expedia’s $350 million investment helped Traveloka reach unicorn status in 2017.
What About the Traveloka IPO?
Keen to ride the special purpose acquisition company wave, Traveloka had earlier been in talks with Bridgetown Holdings, set up by Richard Li and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, to go public.
Alfan Hendro, the chief operating officer of Traveloka, had also confirmed to Skift in February last year that the company would “soon” be going public. “We aim to do the IPO as soon as possible and to do it right,” Hendro had said.
However, it was later reported that the Traveloka has halted talks with Bridgetown and would likely explore going public via a traditional initial public offering in the U.S. instead, with the location and time subject to change.
Traveloka valuation was expected to reach $5 billion through the Bridgetown merger and initial public offering valuation. CB Insights, a market intelligence platform, currently pegs the travel unicorn’s valuation at $3 billion.
CB Insights chose not to comment further on the Traveloka valuation.
The Superapp Journey
Traveloka has now developed into a superapp having diversified very successfully during the pandemic, offering services ranging from booking airline tickets, accommodations, tourist attractions, healthcare, food delivery, as well as financial services products.
For Indonesia, e-commerce remains the main growth driver at 52 percent year-on-year ($35 billion-$53 billion), while transport and food and online media grew by 36 percent and 48 percent in 2021, according to a Google, Bain and Temasek report.
Indonesia’s internet economy is is set to reach $330 billion in value by 2030, and $146 billion in value by 2025 from an estimated $70 billion in 2021, boosted by growth in e-commerce and an open regulatory framework supportive of digital financial services, said the report.
Launched in 2012, Traveloka has gone on to become Southeast Asia’s leading technology company with the company claiming that the app download has reached more than 60 million in May 2022.
Traveloka’s pivot towards the financial sector during the pandemic was a success, especially at a time when its core business of travel and accommodations was badly hit. The company went on to collaborate with several banks to offer innovative financial products and payment services to its users.
Having launched its ‘buy now, pay later’ product in 2018, Travelok recently partnered with Gojek-backed Bank Jago for credit distribution through Traveloka PayLater
In partnership with one of the biggest financial institutions in Indonesia supervised by the Financial Services Authority, Bank Indonesia and Bank Negara Indonesia, Traveloka also launched the TravelokaPayLater ‘Virtual Card Number’ in September last year, an innovative payment method that allowed Traveloka PayLater users to buy now and pay later on supported e-commerce platforms outside of the Traveloka ecosystem using a ‘Virtual Card Number’.
The collaboration between Traveloka and a subsidiary of Thailand’s Siam Commercial Bank had marked the travel startup’s first regional expansion into the digital financial services segment. However, the joint venture fell through.
Starting off as a platform for restaurant reviews and listings in 2018, Traveloka Eats moved to a full-fledged food delivery service during the pandemic.
The lifestyle superapp also offers a taxi-hailing service in partnership with Blue Bird, Indonesia’s leading taxi operator and has also ventured into telehealth. Traveloka Health allows users to consult doctors online, book Covid-19 tests, therapies and other healthcare services through the superapp.
Traveloka has also forayed into the booming e-grocery market in Indonesia with Traveloka Mart this year.
The Road Ahead
Marking the expanding presence of Traveloka in the region, the travel tech unicorn acquired three online travel agencies in 2018 — Pegipegi from Indonesia, MyTour from Vietnam, and Travelbook from the Philippines, for approximately $66.8 million.
In April 2020, the company laid off almost 10 percent of its staff after witnessing a surge in trip cancelations and refund requests due to the pandemic.
At one point, Traveloka had more than 150,000 refund requests, totaling over $100 million, and that was just for flights, Henry Hendrawan, the president of Traveloka, had said last year.
However, as the world in general and Southeast Asia in particular recovers from the pandemic, and countries ease travel restrictions, Traveloka claimed to have recorded increasing demands and transactions during January-May 2022.
Besides, Indonesia, the travel unicorn has also been aggressively marketing itself in the other five primary markets — Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Philippines post the reopening of borders.
With every ease in restriction, Traveloka has been witnessing a significant increase in searches, Traveloka’s Hendro had said in an interview in March.
“When non-quarantine in Bali was introduced, we saw an 8x increase in searches from Singapore and 4x from Malaysia. With increased relaxation, travel interest will be on an upward trajectory,” Hendro had said.
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Photo credit: Traveloka is the most popular and biggest player in Indonesia. Traveloka