Television

TV18 Group, Reliance Capital & Norwest Venture Partners join hands to form Yatra online

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MUMBAI: Yatra Online (www.yatra.in), the online and centralised travel services company for the India market, has announced that it has secured initial funding from leading financial and strategic investors. 

Yatra's investors include Reliance Capital (a member of Reliance ? Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group), Norwest Venture Partners (NVP) ? Promod Haque's leading venture capital firm, and Television 18 Group. The investors are also committed to support Yatra through its subsequent stages of growth to make Yatra the number one travel services company in India. The Yatra service will be operational by the first half of 2006.

A release issued by TV18 Group states, "India is currently witnessing a tremendous boom in both business and family/leisure travel. In 2006, the Indian travel market is estimated to reach approximately US $40 billion, and plans to hit close to US $50 billion by 2009." 

"Although the travel market is flourishing, the needs of today's Indian travelers are still under-served due to the fact that the travel industry is extremely fragmented. It is tremendously difficult for Indian travelers to find, compare and select the best flight and hotel packages and deals, and make reservations at the lowest cost and finest service," adds the statement.

To meet this rapidly growing need, India's online and centralized travel services company, Yatra Online (www.yatra.in), has been founded. Yatra will help businesses and consumers to book airline, railway and bus tickets and reserve hotel rooms and car rentals by calling Yatra's call center, or by going to the Internet website www.yatra.in, or by using their mobile handsets. 

Yatra will provide travel-related information, pricing, availability and reservations for airlines, hotels, railway, buses and car rentals across 5000 large cities and small rural areas throughout India.

Yatra's multi-language customer service center will enable business and family/leisure travelers to make well-informed and cost effective bookings 24 hours a day or night, 365 days a year, through its online, call center and mobile support. 

The customers will benefit from first priority booking and customized travel packages and deals for multiple large to small hotels, airlines, railways, buses and car rentals at the lowest prices, as a result of strategic relationships with the leading travel suppliers. The company will also offer free travel-related news and travel advisory services to a wide range of people.

"We are very excited about our investment in Yatra and the market opportunity the company has targeted. Internet penetration in India is only in its infancy and investing in companies with sound business models that leverage the Internet to reach today's consumers is a growing trend for our firm," said NVP managing partner and Yatra board advisor Promod Haque.

"We are delighted to partner with NVP to back Yatra's strong management team in fulfilling every Indian's dream of easy, affordable travel by improving the entire Indian travel experience," said a Reliance Capital spokesperson.

"TV18 Group is in the business of providing critical, real-time information to over 70 million people each day in India, in addition to a large Internet franchise that we serve through our leading financial and news portals. What we have done for delivering the latest news and information to Indian consumers is the same paradigm shift we believe Yatra will bring to today's business and vacation travelers," said Haresh Chawla, CEO, TV18 and Yatra board member.

"Investing in Yatra is an extension of our vision for the Internet, as we extend transaction services to our audience."

The founders of Yatra are non-resident Indians (NRI) and seasoned travel industry executives who have returned to India to launch the first online and centralized travel services company of its kind. The founders, Dhruv Shringi and Manish Amin, bring a combination of 45 years of travel experience and 15 years of online travel experience to Yatra. Most recently, the founders worked together to help build and manage one of Europe's largest online travel businesses, Ebookers Plc, which was recently acquired by travel giant Cendant Corporation (market capitalization: US $17.98 billion) for US $410 million, adds the official release.

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