The start-up funding ‘winter’ is a reality but it is going to be short and sharp, and it has been exacerbated by the banking crisis in the US and Europe, travel services provider MakeMyTrip Chairman Deep Kalra said on Tuesday.
With domestic players in travel in India reporting more than 100 per cent recovery from pre-COVID period, the industry will witness steady secular growth, he said while speaking at the Times Network India Digital Fest here. “I think the startup winter, which we’re talking about or the funding winter that we’re talking about is a reality, but it’s going to be short, but sharp,” Kalra said. He further said, “And today, it’s not only because of the overheated part of it, but now we have the banks crisis, not just in the US but also in Europe, which really exacerbates most of this but I’ve seen cycles now being shorter, sharper and it will come back.
Kalra was responding to a query on the churn witnessed by the start-up ecosystem where valuations have dropped and large-scale layoffs have happened. Despite the current challenges, he said, “There is no doubt in my mind that the next, probably two decades belong to India. It’s ours to lose. And especially on the digital side, I think India’s just going to come out shining in all.” On the current state of the domestic travel and tourism industry, he said there has been a rebound after the pandemic, fuelled by revenge travel.
“Today, almost every domestic player in travel in India is saying we’ve now recovered more than 100 per cent of pre-COVID…I think people have come back. We believe it’s going to be very steady, at least on a secular growth. There will be some ups and downs, there will be blips, I think people have learned to live with that.” He, however, said India can still do better in order to attract more middle-class foreign tourists. “India is perceived as sadly an unsafe place for a lot of foreigners… Middle-class American or middle-class European travelling to India, as one of the first choices, doesn’t happen automatically. It’s considered an exotic place, but also a risky place. So we have to change that,” Kalra asserted.
Also, he said there is a need to develop last-mile infrastructure beyond the development of airports and roads. “We’ve got now a lot of infrastructure happening in terms of new airports in terms of wonderful new roads, but the last mile is still lacking. Therefore, when we are in season, every hotel, you will see the hotspots get choked up. We’re putting a lot of pressure on them,” he said, adding if these could be addressed, the contribution of the travel and tourism industry to the country’s economic growth can be further increased.