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Mumbai: Mobile travel search firm Ixigo has acquired Square Hoot Hikes Pvt. Ltd, the parent company of Rutogo, an inter-city cabs aggregator, for an undisclosed amount.

The Rutogo team will be joining Ixigo, run by Le Travenues Technology Pvt. Ltd, to expand its cabs app by building a marketplace for inter-city taxi owners and vendors.

This is the second acquisition in the past one month for Ixigo, which earlier announced that it had acqui-hired the Indian Backpacker. Acqui-hiring is the process by which one company acquires another to gain access to its employees.

In June, mobile phone maker Micromax Informatics Ltd made a strategic investment in Ixigo, a move to help Ixigo increase its 6.5 million monthly active users to over 30 million by the end of 2016.

Rutogo’s team is passionate about the tourist taxis segment and they had made considerable progress in building a marketplace with nearly 100 taxi vendors across India within a few months of operation, said Aloke Bajpai, co-founder and chief executive officer at Ixigo.

“This acquisition fits well with our overall strategy of providing comprehensive choice across intra-city and inter-city taxi booking options. We will be launching outstation taxis in the coming weeks, and will also be opening up the cabs marketplace and partner with other booking apps in the inter-city taxis space shortly," Bajpai said.

Bajpai said cab aggregation is perfect substitute for bus trips, train journeys and short-haul flights of less than 500km.

Experts say taxi-aggregating is one of the hottest businesses for investments globally.

Given its frequent use-case, it’s also one of the stickiest e-commerce and m-commerce segment from a consumer standpoint, as seen by the rising popularity of Ola and Uber, said Chetan Kapoor, research analyst, Asia Pacific, Phocuswright Inc., a travel market research firm.

“Ixigo already has a meta app for cabs and rickshaws, which features call to book option for several offline suppliers in smaller towns and cities. The latter, especially, is where Ixigo could further create value should it choose to go deeper within this vertical, rather than competing head on with the likes of heavily funded Ola and Uber in major cities," Kapoor said.

Last week, Uber Technologies Inc. received an undisclosed investment from Tata Opportunities Fund as the US-based taxi hailing company prepares to expand in India and step up its fight with local rival Ola.

Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Group holding company Tata Sons Ltd, made a personal investment in Ola last month. The amount wasn’t disclosed. Ola, which was valued at $2.5 billion in April, has raised over $730 million in funding since October last year. The company was in early talks to raise over $500 million to fund its expansion, Mint reported in May.

In March, Ola bought out Bengaluru-based competitor TaxiForSure in a deal estimated to be worth $200 million in cash and stock.

A few months earlier, Ixigo had launched the first Indian meta-search app for cabs on the Google Play Store. Ixigo cabs app allows travellers to search across app-based taxi providers such as Ola, Uber and Easycabs for booking. The app was earlier limited to intra-city taxi and auto transport, and with Rutogo, Ixigo will expand into the inter-city tourist segment, which fits well with its audience of travellers.

Ixigo shares its vision of becoming the leading marketplace for local and outstation cabs, said Aneesh Rayancha, co-founder, Rutogo. Another co-founder of Rutogo, Venus Dhuria, pointed out that the market potential for app-based taxi booking is estimated to be worth $9 billion, and inter-city cab bookings will form a majority of that, given the higher value of such transactions.

Ixigo was launched in 2007 in Gurgaon by Bajpai and Rajnish Kumar. Ixigo aggregates and compares real-time travel information, prices and availability for flights, trains, buses, cabs, hotels, packages and destinations.

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