There’s MakeMyTrip, the big daddy of India’s travel space. Founded nearly two decades ago, it’s the destination for hundreds of millions in venture funding, listed on the NASDAQ, and bringing in over $600 million in revenue annually.
And then there’s EaseMyTrip, in many ways a study in contrasts. Formally registered in 2008 by two brothers, Nishant Pitti and Rikant Pitti, it declared annual revenues of over Rs 1900 crore ($267.5 million) in March 2017 without a Rupee in venture funding. The brothers were just 23 and 21, respectively, when they started out in 2008.
On January 16, India’s largest business newspaper, The Economic Times* reported, citing “people briefed on the matter”, that EaseMyTrip was planning to raise Rs 1,500 crore ($211 million) through an IPO, valuing the young company at between Rs 6,000-7,500 crore ($845 million-$1.05 billion). If successful, EaseMyTrip would be the first company in India’s booming online travel sector to list domestically, said the article. Even though EaseMyTrip’s revenues were just about a quarter of MakeMyTrip’s, the article pointed out, it was profitable.
It was a remarkable story of growth, judging from the company’s past growth.
But just a few days later, EaseMyTrip filed its annual financials for the year that ended March 2018. Its revenue dropped over 93% over the preceding year, and profits, 21%.
But that wasn’t all. Along with its financial results for the year that ended March 2018, it also restated the previous year’s revenue. Which now dropped from Rs 1,904 crore ($268 million) to Rs 71 crore ($10 million).
Based on its revised revenue numbers, EaseMyTrip isn’t 25% of MakeMyTrip’s size by revenue, as The Economic Times article pointed out, but between 2-3%. For FY17, MakeMyTrip reported revenues of $447.61 million.
If the Pitti brothers were worried, they probably didn’t show it. Because they would have been preparing for the 25 January launch of the big-budget period epic, “Manikarnika”, a movie based on the life of one of the leaders of the Indian rebellion of 1857, Rani Lakshmibai.
Which was co-produced by EaseMyTrip.
Don’t be surprised. This wasn’t the first movie produced by the company, but the seventh.
A contrarian travel conundrum
India’s travel space is intensely competitive, forcing even savvy and well-funded companies like Ibibo and MakeMyTrip to call a truce and merge in 2016, rather than keep bleeding and fighting.
How then did a young company like EaseMyTrip, with no domain experience in travel, no funding, and no significant marketing spends end up here?