Kuala Lumpur, 9 February 2021: An undoubted victim of the COVID-19 pandemic is the aviation industry.
With lockdowns implemented, overseas air travel has been transformed into a luxury only known pre-pandemic days, workers have been furloughed and planes have idly parked in airports for months.
However, one company that has performed well despite the pandemic is a Malaysian startup, T-Commerce Gateway (TCG) – a platform which works directly with airlines to aggregate and share booking data with online travel agencies (OTA) and booking platforms such as CTrip.
“We have achieved a new monthly air ticket sales record in November, reaching a new high at RM 2.4 million. The record sales performance underpins the leverage and robustness of our business model to the air travel industry independent of airlines or online travel agents,” said KC Cheah, Founder of Alpha Red Services, the company that owns the platform.
Cheah attributes the success of the platform to TCG’s resilient business model which has also led to an improvement in the company’s financial results.
“As these ticket sales are from lower domestic price air travels, our business has witnessed higher than expected margins,” Cheah explains.
With domestic air travel resuming in regions where TCG has an established network, the company has been able to leverage this rebound, allowing for a strong financial recovery. To serve the anticipated demand, the startup is looking to raise RM 3 million on equity crowdfunding (ECF) platform, pitchIN.
“We foresee a strong recovery in 2021 with the markets gradually opening up, followed by a full recovery in global demand by 2023. The funds will mainly be for working capital as we broaden commercial partnerships with airlines and support fast-growing demand with the onboarding of more travel portal partners (mainly OTAs),” Cheah added.
TCG is connected to some of the top OTAs in China where the network platforms receive over 20 million daily searches and therefore well-positioned to capitalize on this growth. Between the platform’s partner network, which includes Fliggy as well as Qunar, TCG has direct partnerships with 14 airlines and over 70% of the Chinese market content covered.
“As the fast-growing B2B air travel content aggregator, we have processed over 50,000 bookings since its founding in mid-2018. After a positive fourth quarter in 2020, we are projecting US$18.77 million worth of gross booking value transactions in 2021,” said Cheah.
The platform was founded by Cheah who himself comes from an extensive travel industry background. After over a decade as the technology head of AirAsia, Cheah founded Alpha Red Services and Mayflower Online – the digital arm of Mayflower Travel Group which aimed to transform and digitize traditional travel businesses.
In 2017, Cheah launched TCG with the mission of connecting modern consumers directly to airlines through simplifying air ticket distribution.
Cheah also looks at the coming year with great optimism with his team planning to expand their airline network beyond the APAC region. This includes airlines such as China Southern Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, Fly Dubai, and more. Last month, the company was also selected as one of 11 Malaysian startups to participate in the Microsoft Emerge X Program, a program designed to help scale promising young companies in the region.
“It is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when.’ The industry will recover and when it does, we will be ready to take off with it”.