India’s train network is among the largest in the world, and finding where its many trains are is worth a lot of money.
Google has just acquired the team behind Where Is My Train app for an estimated $30-40 million (Rs. 280 crore). Sigmoid Labs had been founded by five former members of TiVo corporation, and only has a team of about 10 people. The company is based out of Bangalore.
“We’re excited to share that Sigmoid Labs, the team behind the “Where is my train” app, is joining Google,” the company shared in a post. “We can think of no better place to help us achieve our mission, and we’re excited to join Google to help bring technology and information into more people’s hands,” it added.
Where Is My Train was a app launched in 2016, and uses cell tower information to tell users where particular trains are. The app can function without an internet connection or GPS as well, and even allows users to set alarms to alert users if their train is nearing their destination. Apart from showing train locations, Where Is My Train also adds on several other useful railway information, including checking PNR statuses, providing train schedules, and displaying coach and platform numbers. Where Is My Train had more than 10 million downloads, and claimed it was the highest rated travel app in India.
It’s not hard to see why Google would’ve been interested in such a product — it ties in which the other acquisitions the company has made in India over the last year. It had earlier acquired a stake in conceirge app Dunzo, which would’ve given it insights into how the urban consumer behaves. Then then picked up a stake in fashion startup Fynd, which would’ve given in insights into India’s e-commerce market. And with Where’s my train, Google will tap into India’s Tier 2 audience which regularly travels by train.
That’s the market that Google has been eagerly tapping over the last couple of years. Google’s been building products focussing on these Next Billion Users — Google’s gone ahead and contributed to the ambitious RailTel program, which provides free Wifi at Railway stations, and has built features into its apps that would make them more useful for those with basic phones, such as the ability to view videos offline on YouTube.
For the Indian startup ecosystem, the acquisition of Where Is My Train shows is a bit of a milestone. Thus far, most startup funding activity in India had been focused on companies that were solving problems for the well-heeled, urban Indians. Where Is My Train’s acquisition shows that even solving local, India-specific problems — such as finding train locations — can now draw the attention to multinational giants like Google.