The Wego app saw nearly nine million app downloads in 2021, making it one of the largest online travel portals in the MENA region. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Online travel marketplace Wego will acquire Cleartrip’s Middle East business in a deal expected to close in the second half of 2022, it announced on Monday.

This deal is the latest in a series of entrepreneurial successes that reinforce Dubai’s reputation as a global hub for business, tech talent and companies of all sizes.

The agreement with Cleartrip’s parent company Flipkart also includes the sale of Riyadh-based Flyin.com and a technology co-operation agreement between the two brands.

The boards of directors of Wego and Flipkart have approved the transaction, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.

The Wego app saw nearly nine million app downloads in 2021, making it one of the largest online travel portals in the MENA region.

Cleartrip expanded into the region in 2010 and acquired Flyin.com in 2018, playing a pivotal role in expanding the online travel market in Saudi Arabia.

A legacy of deals

The deal between the two Dubai Internet City-based companies follows a legacy of major partnerships in the business district aimed at geographic and product expansion, as well as the birthplace of regional unicorns.

The acquisition will enable Wego to not only enhance its operations to accommodate growing demand in the region by tapping into Cleartrip’s advanced digital infrastructure and resources, but also allow the leading travel marketplace to deliver a wider range of services and products to consumers. It simultaneously marks a notable chapter in the city’s business ecosystem as two major firms merge to bolster the tech-tourism sector.

Ross Veitch, CEO & Co-Founder of Wego, said: “Wego and Cleartrip both expanded into the Middle East about a decade ago from Singapore and India, respectively, and we both found a new home in Dubai. We were excited by the opportunity presented by a vibrant region with some of the world’s best airlines, airports and destinations, a population that loves to travel but a relatively under-penetrated online travel sector.

“Dubai’s business friendly environment, pragmatic policy making and status as the region’s hub for the technology and travel industries has played an important enabling role in Wego’s growth. It was also in Dubai that Wego and Cleartrip started doing business together and so in many ways Dubai has played the role of match-maker and venue for the marriage that we are announcing today.”

Ammar Al Malik, Managing Director of Dubai Internet City, said: “Dubai continues to consolidate its leading position as a global hub for companies and talent in technology, and an incubator for the most prominent success stories of the region. The acquisitions and mergers within Dubai Internet City over the past two decades are a testament to the emirate’s strong position and its enabling platform for promising investment opportunities.

“Wego’s success story over the past years, and its acquisition of Cleartrip operations in the region to expand and enter new markets, enhances the emirate’s technology and innovation exports.”

Success stories

Dubai Internet City’s robust technology ecosystem and world-class infrastructure have played a vital role in facilitating major partnerships. It is home to the region’s first ever unicorn, Careem, which was acquired by Uber in 2019 for $3.1 billion. Amazon was able to expand into the Middle Eastern market in 2017 by acquiring e-commerce firm Souq.com for $650 million.

Also included in its legacy was the Dubai-based Emerging Markets Property Group (EMPG) and OLX Group’s merger of MENA and South Asia operations in 2020, forming a Dh3.6 billion Dubai-based unicorn company, as well as Yahoo!’s acquisition of Maktoob.com, the first Arabic/English email service provider, for $176 million in 2009.