Skift Take

The Sharjah-headquartered online travel agency has big ambitions in the corporate travel space, but so too do other players in these regions.

Online travel agency Musafir is on the lookout for acquisitions to fuel growth across the Middle East and India.

The agency, which is headquartered in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, has appointed Cambon Partners, a mergers and acquisitions advisor, to help it raise $50 million to fund any takeovers, with a focus on business travel, Skift has learned.

Cambon Partners recently advised on the sale of Spain-based Travel Compositor to Travelsoft.

Musafir would use any cash to “start consolidating the market through acquisitions of legacy players,” according to Morgann Lesne, a partner at Cambon. “It’s growing very quickly,” he said, with targets already under discussion.

He added the agency’s outlook was positive, with it achieving 60 percent growth year-on-year, and $10 million of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization forecast for 2023.

“As part of our ongoing commitment to innovation and expansion, we are exploring an investment opportunity that aligns with our company’s strategic goals and vision for growth,” Sachin Gadoya, CEO and co-founder of and Musafir Business, confirmed to Skift. “We look forward to sharing more details as our discussions progress.”

Superapp Ambitions

Any acquisitions of smaller players, and their portfolio of customers, could significantly accelerate Musafir’s growth, based on its current trajectory.

Musafir was established in 2007, with Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Thani co-founding the business alongside Gadoya. It launched services in India in 2010, and branched out into corporate travel in 2017.

The company opened a technology and innovation center in Pune, India, at the end of last year, supplementing an existing center in the United Arab Emirates. It also opened an office in Doha, Qatar, in October 2022, while in June it partnered with ​​Mastercard as part of efforts to digitize more bookings.

But the potential to digitize more bookings is also on the radar of its competitors, local or otherwise. In the Middle East, Italian corporate travel agency BizAway has just launched a joint venture with Dubai investor Seed Group.

In India, both MakeMyTrip and Yatra are pursuing plans to go public — adding to their existing U.S. listings — with the latter visiting a number of marquee investors, including large domestic mutual funds, family offices and hedge funds.

“Our story has been well received, given the strong recovery in both consumer and corporate travel in India,” said Yatra co-founder and CEO Dhruv Shringi.

MakeMyTrip has also ventured into the Middle East as a completely new geography, where it plans to launch a would-be superapp.

The superapp vision is also shared by Musafir’s Gadoya, as it would help improve user experience providing users one-stop shop for all their travel requirements — be it flights, worldwide visas, holidays, ride-hailing or check-in, he told Skift in September last year.

Domestic traffic in the Middle East has almost recovered from the pandemic, and in February reached 95 percent of pre-pandemic revenue passenger kilometers. International traffic reached around 94 percent of pre-pandemic levels. However, Middle East–North America routes continued to outperform 2019 revenue passenger kilometers.

Globally, air traffic in February 2023 reached around 85 percent of February 2019 levels, according to the International Air Transport Association.


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Tags: corporate travel, iata, india, makemytrip, middle east, musafir, online travel newsletter, travel management, yatra

Photo credit: Pictured is the Al Majaz area, Sharjah, UAE. Source: Naveed Anjum/Unsplash Naveed Anjum / Unsplash

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