Deep Dives

ixigo IPO: The Long Road To Success

Building for Bharat like no one has


Team Elevation

18th June 2024

Almost all ‘overnight successes’ are usually the fruit of several years of labour. 17 years in the case of ixigo. As ixigo lists on the stock exchanges today, we couldn't be prouder of the incredible journey of the company and its founders, Aloke and Rajnish.

Since we first partnered with them in 2011, ixigo has navigated turbulent markets many times over, weathered stiff competition, and yet the founders never lost sight of the larger purpose they set out to achieve - transform how the real India travels.

As we reflect on ixigo's remarkable journey, four enduring hallmarks stand out that have defined Aloke, Rajnish, and the company since day one. These qualities have shone through in their growth and decisions, and will undoubtedly continue to guide them as they build and grow a lasting organization: a laser-sharp focus on the "Next Billion" customer segment, resilience in the face of challenges, a commitment to frugality, and a culture of empathy that permeates every aspect of the business.

When we first met Aloke and Rajnish, they had a clear vision of creating a platform that would impact the lives of not millions but hundreds of millions of travelers every day and a steadfast determination to be the most user-centric company in India's travel space. The result is here for all to see. When Elevation backed ixigo in its first avatar as a travel metasearch engine, it was already a force to be reckoned with, at a time when India had just 40-50 million active Internet users. In FY23, the company’s ecosystem of apps (ixigo Flights, ixigo Trains, ConfirmTkt and AbhiBus) collectively registered 429 million Annual Active Users.

Cracking the NBU Market

ixigo's focus on the "Bharat" market – users from tier 2, 3, and 4 cities – has been a key differentiator. Most OTAs focused on flights when for Indians travel was largely synonymous with trains. The founders empathised with this user and recognized the lack of efficient solutions for train travellers, a massive segment that remained underserved for a long time. ixigo launched its trains app for Android in 2013 as a utility app and commenced selling train tickets as a B2C ticketing principal service provider for IRCTC in 2017.

ixigo garnered unmatched customer delight and word-of-mouth momentum with many first-of-their-kind product innovations and user-centric features that catered to the unique needs of this segment, such as live train tracking, PNR prediction, station alarms, AR coach position, and free cancellation. Their acquisition of ConfirmTkt in 2021 further simplified the lives of train travellers.

ixigo has been a frontrunner in value-added services in the OTA industry, with offerings like ixigo Assured, Assured Flex and Abhi Assured to empower travellers with free cancellations, instant refunds, and flexibility in travel bookings. ixigo was one of the first players to launch innovative AI-based data-driven features, such as a multilingual travel assistant (TARA), live running status, Siri shortcuts, and an AR coach position feature, which allows train passengers to locate their coach positions at more than 7,000 railway stations across the country.

In July 2023, ixigo became the first OTA in India to launch a Generative AI-based travel planning tool named PLAN to help travellers plan their trips, get itineraries and real-time information and recommendations based on input criteria.

Rajnish Kumar (L), Aloke Bajpai (R)

Over the years, ixigo has built a definitive playbook for this segment, reinforced by the company’s outstanding execution around utility and booking use cases. This customer-centric approach has helped ixigo build a loyal user base and establish a strong presence in the market.


In Aloke’s own words, and we concur, ixigo was born in adversity and it thrives in adversity. Founded just before the global financial crisis, it had to navigate turbulent waters right from the start. The founders faced rejection from 75 investors in the first year (2007) but the belief in their vision never faltered. Before we at Elevation decided to come on board, ixigo survived its first five years on less than a million dollars, a remarkable feat in an industry known for heavy cash burn.

One of the most striking aspects of ixigo's journey is the remarkable resilience demonstrated by the founders and the team. Between 2017 to 2020 ixigo made the transition from a marketplace model to a full-fledged OTA business when the market was considered too crowded (with players like MakeMyTrip, Cleartrip, Yatra, and EaseMyTrip) with no room for another player. These transitions were not easy, but the founders' willingness to embrace change and make bold decisions has been instrumental in steering the company toward growth.

ixigo effected its biggest pivot in a remarkable timeframe of just four months. Their ability to constantly adapt and evolve to better serve their customers has today made them India's second-largest OTA platform.

ixigo's resilience was further tested during the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought the travel industry to a standstill. The company emerged out of it as the fastest-growing OTA in the country.

Frugality Mindset

The founders' emphasis on frugality and capital efficiency has been deeply ingrained in ixigo's DNA, perhaps due to the numerous near-death experiences they have faced throughout their history. Having run out of money at least on four occasions, Aloke and Rajnish have been pushed to the wall more than a few times. However, with each instance, they not only survived but thrived, emerging stronger and more resilient. The founders consider cash to be the single most important metric for a startup to track day in and day out.

The founders' mantra of being a "cockroach" – building a fundamentally strong business with a focus on unit economics, profitability, and capital efficiency – proved to be a winning strategy in the long term. This approach has allowed ixigo to stay lean, focused, and agile, even during periods of rapid growth.

ixigo's frugality mindset is exemplified by their lean team structure, a stark contrast to the industry norm of overhiring. With a workforce of less than 500 employees, ixigo efficiently serves an impressive 80 million monthly active users. In a fiercely competitive area with hyper-funded players, ixigo's ability to create such a profound impact with a mere $60 million in equity funding over its lifetime (before going public) cannot be overstated.

The founders’ ‘zero-dollar marketing’ approach leverages the power of content, videos and social media to drive more app adoption and brand awareness. ixigo has nailed the framework for creating engaging content that’s designed to go viral. One of the countless examples of this ingenuity is this video made on a shoestring budget of Rs 7000 that achieved global virality.

Culture of Empathy

On the company level, ixigo's success is not just a result of its business strategy but also its strong organizational culture with empathy as a core value. The founders have fostered a culture of transparency and open communication, and during tough times, the team has rallied together to tide over crises. Despite running low on cash in 2019, a situation exacerbated by the pandemic, ixigo kept its flock together without any pink slips while simultaneously sharpening its focus on profitability.

ixigo's empathetic approach extends to its customers, too. While the air travel market was being overserved, ixigo stuck to its insight and targeted the underserved consumer, resulting in a truly delighted user base.

They were one of the few OTAs to proactively refund customers for tickets cancelled due to COVID-19 lockdowns, including refunds for convenience fees. This customer-first mindset has earned ixigo a loyal user base and a reputation for being a brand that truly cares.

At Elevation Capital, we've been fortunate to partner with exceptional founders who are building companies that are shaping the future of industries for the long term. We are thrilled to have been a part of ixigo's incredible journey as its largest institutional shareholder and one of its longest-standing partners. As the company enters this new chapter, we remain committed to supporting the founders and the team in their mission. ixigo's story is a shining example of what can be achieved through resilience, customer-centricity, and adaptability. Which is why it’s not hard to believe what started as metasearch engine in 2007 from an apartment in Gurugram has transformed India’s travel landscape.

Here's to many more milestones and successes ahead. Congratulations to the entire ixigo team on this historic occasion!