[The Turning Point] Love for travel and technology led these 2 IIT batchmates to launch IPO-bound Ixigo

The Turning Point is a series of short articles that focuses on the moment when an entrepreneur hit upon their winning idea. Today, we look at IPO-bound ixigo and its journey.
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Traveltech major Le Travenues Technology, which runs and owns online travel portal Ixigo, is eyeing a Rs 1,500-1,800 crore IPO this year.

The now-IPO-bound company began in 2007 as a passion project to do “something meaningful”. It was started by Aloke Bajpai and Rajnish Kumar, two IIT Kanpur alumni who had landed jobs in a French corporate but wanted to take the entrepreneurial path.  

Ixigo empowers travellers to plan, book, and manage their travels by leveraging artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science-led innovations.

It has a combined user base of more than 255 million users. And, being true to its sector, it has had quite a journey, with halts, turbulence, lows, and highs.

The starting point

Aloke and Rajnish were batchmates and wingmates at IIT Kanpur. In an interaction with YourStory, they say they were not great at academics but interested in other things, especially computers and technology, which were new at the time. 

“We both would spend time tinkering around with things that we liked,” recalls Aloke Bajpai, Group CEO and Co-founder, ixigo. 

The friends by chance landed a job at the same company, leading European travel technology firm Amadeus, in Sophia Antipolis on the French Riviera, in the “most beautiful, 20 kilometers away from Cannes” in France.

As 21-year-olds, they were charged up about changing the world. They loved to find new ways to solve problems and measured their success by how much they could apply their knowledge to improve status quo. But the mundane work life got to them. 

Rajnish, Group CPTO & Co-founder, ixigo, says they both wanted to work and learn more, but would be sent back home due to the 35-hour per week work rule.

“We were young, energetic and very excited about learning new things, but this was a large French organisation where beyond a point we got bored. I remember that both of us were so bored that we wanted to go and work on weekends - only to be sent back by the bosses,” Aloke recalls.

Rajnish continued working, while Aloke enrolled for MBA at INSEAD. After finishing the course, Aloke realised it was now time to tackle his and Rajnish’s entrepreneurial bug. Rajnish returned to India, and in 2006 they both rented an apartment in Gurugram and laid the foundation of ixigo. 

The co-founders of ixigo

“When we started we didn't really know what we wanted to do. But we travelled a lot when we were in France, and we knew we were passionate about technology and travel,” Aloke says. 

He shares that when they came back from France and wanted to travel in India, making travel bookings for several destinations was a challenge. At the same time, online travel aggregators were starting up and the duo realised it was the right time to do something different. They started ixigo in 2007 as a travel meta search website for flights. 

A rollercoaster ride

Since 2007, the company has continued its journey, no matter how tough it gets. “Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong at some point in our journey,” Rajnish says.

Along the way, the company saw a major worldwide market crash in 2008 and the pandemic in 2020,  which brought travel down to zero. 

Rajnish and Aloke say they had taken tough decisions earlier in 2008, including slashing team salaries to conserve cash, but the first lockdown gave them “sleepless weeks”. 

Aloke says there was a moment when they discussed what they would do next, but we decided to “not give up” each time. 

The constant hustle seems to have made ixigo stronger and this year looks promising. 

Image Credit: ixigo

In the last week of July, ixigo announced that it raised $53 million (across primary and secondary) led by the Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, along with participation from InfoEdge Venture Funds, White Oak, Bay Capital, Orios Venture Partners, Trifecta Capital, and Malabar Investments. 

The firm has so far raised total primary funding of $58 million, according to data platform Crunchbase, and is backed by Sequoia India and Elevation Capital, among other marquee investors.

Aloke summarises their journey as “all about not giving up” and that they will continue to tap technology to solve customers’ pain points. 

Edited by Teja Lele Desai