Tripfez raises $750k led by Gobi Partners, Intres Capital

Malaysia-based Muslim-centric online travel agency and hotel review platform Tripfez has completed its seed round of $750,000 led by Gobi Partners and Intres Capital (AXIATA Group).

A number of angel investors in the travel industry like Douglas Khoo, the co-founder of Qunar, a Chinese online travel provider, also participated in the round.

The firm, which has a headcount of 10, will use the funds to expand its offerings, increase marketing efforts, improve its technological capabilities and bring on new talent. Faeez Fadhlillah, Co-founder of Tripfez, told DEALSTREETASIA in a phone call that the firm expects to have 20 employees by end-2016.

Founded in July 2013 and launched in October 2015, the company generates revenue by buying room nights from hotels and wholesalers for a nett price and selling it at a higher price. It also intends to make money through its Salam Standard membership programme that features hotels that are Muslim-friendly, which is currently free for all to use.

To qualify as a Muslim-friendly hotel under the Salam Standard programme, brands will have to pass a few tests, including being able to provide a prayer mat on request, showing an arrow pointing toward Mecca to indicate the Qiblah direction, having a list of halal restaurants in the vicinity of the hotel, being able to remove alcohol in the room’s minibar, and having halal-certified food in the hotel for breakfast or room service.

According to the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, the sole custodian of halal certification in Singapore, ‘Halal’ is an Arabic word meaning ‘lawful’ or ‘allowable’. The organisation writes on its website, “Most food and drinks are considered Halal unless they are stated clearly in the Quran (holy book of Islam) and Hadith (prophetic sayings) as forbidden and non-Halal.” Non-halal food typically includes meat of dead animals and birds, flesh of swine, intoxicating drugs and alcoholic drinks.

Currently, out of 200,000 properties showcased on Tripfez, about 20,000 of them are Salam Standard certified, said the firm. Examples include Accor Hotels and Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts.

Fadhlillah said that most of the web and mobile-enabled platform’s traffic can be attributed to Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Middle East. Favourite outbound destinations include South Korea, Vietnam, and London.

He added that it is a lot easier to get hotels in non-Muslim countries to participate in its certification programme, as opposed to ones in Muslim countries. Hoteliers in non-Muslim countries generally see it as a huge opportunity, he said. However, ones in Muslim countries, especially markets where halal certification isn’t as ubiquitous, hoteliers often wonder why they have to get certified when they already serve Muslim customers regularly.

“Muslim consumers represent a highly underserved market segment,” said Thomas G. Tsao, Managing Partner, Gobi Partners, in a statement. “With Tripfez and Salam Standard’s halal friendly travel offerings, we believe that Muslim travellers will feel more comfortable to explore the world.”

According to MasterCard and Crescent Rating’s Global Muslim Travel Index 2015, the Muslim population is set to account for 26.5 per cent of the world’s population by 2030. The study recorded 108 million Muslim travellers in 2014, which is 10 per cent of the global travel space, and predicts that by 2020, there will be 150 million Muslim travellers with 11 per cent of the market.

“The space that Tripfez operates in provides a great opportunity as the global travel industry shifts towards more localized travel experiences. The Muslim travel market is currently experiencing a similar awakening as the Chinese travel market did in the early-to-mid 2000s,” said one of the firm’s investors Khoo.

Also Read:

Indonesia: KREN ventures into travel e-commerce biz by acquiring 30% in ICI

China’s B2B travel site Travelzen raises $93m in Series C round

Malaysia: Tan Chong’s travel agency Mayflower buys 55% in GoCar

Singapore Reporter/s

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Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.