By Riddhi Mukherjee and Nikhil Pahwa

Paytm has acquired a majority stake in Only Much Louder’s (OML) online event ticketing platform Insider.in for Rs 35 crore. OML CEO Vijay Nair confirmed this to MediaNama and said that Insider.in was performing well and they felt it was the right time to partner with Paytm, which has been doing well in the online ticketing business, to further grow the platform. Insider.in founder Shreyas Srinivasan will now take over as CEO.

As of December 2016, Insider.in had around 4,000 events listed on the platform, and it claims to have had 1.1 million monthly active users between October 2016 and March 2017, of which 30-40% were repeat customers, according to this ETtech report. Back in March 2016, Insider had launched an API that allowed other ticketing websites to pick up events from Insider and sell them independently through their own websites and apps. The company had mentioned that for small events, event organizers end up listing on a single platform for avoiding double bookings of the same seats and other such logistical problems, resulting in such events having an average fill rate of less than 40%. For the financial year ended March 31, 2017, Paytm was selling over 3 million movie tickets monthly. OML hasn’t disclosed how many tickets Insider.in sold monthly.

MediaNama’s Take (Nikhil adds)

Competition is heating up in the events ticketing space, largely between BookMyShow and Paytm: while BookMyShow has the benefit of being the default destination for events planning in India, Paytm is the challenger trying to create a new default.

What Paytm has going for it, is the vertical integration it brings with its recharge and wallets business: their transactions and bill payments business feeds their money storage (wallets, payments bank) business which links well with their ticketing business. What they are not, and are trying to be, is the default for ticketing of entertainment.

Just like Paytm expanded from recharge to wallet to Payments Bank and ticketing, Insider.in was the vertical expansion for OML: OML is largely an events business, with artiste management thrown in. The businesses feed each other: OML has musicians and comedians as clients who do online video (and previously TV Shows) with them, and this drives business for their events which have ticketing powered by Insider.in. In the past, OML has flirted with the launch InTown, to try to create that default for events discovery, and a natural part of that was to link it to ticketing, which is what Insider.in was. Remember that OML’s ticketing was once powered by BookMyShow, and Insider was probably meant to help improve margins and deliver a better customised ticketing platform for OML.

OML’s real business is audience management: understanding who buys what, when and how, and how much they spend, thus helping figure out who to sell to when, and understand what users might want. Better control over ticketing was to help with that, and the freedom to rework the platform helped deliver better customer proposition: for example, allowing transfers of tickets.

OML has, however, has never played the mass game: they’re probably targeting only half of the entertainment ticketing segment, which is everything but movies. Their shows target a certain young and important demographic – I’m guessing, 18 to 35 – from urban and up-market India. And remember: BookMyShow also does events, so for event organisers, it is a choice between BookMyShow (a default for users) and Insider. In an environment where two elephants like BookMyShow and Paytm are at war, Insider was going to get crushed eventually. So they would had two choices: raise more money and compete with Paytm and BookMyShow, or sell. With management bandwidth largely focused on their mainstay events business, ticketing — which is a low margin business (and low net-revenue business) that largely operates at scale — would have been at a comparatively lower priority. Money raised by OML is probably better spent on the events and content production business. A part of the deal with Paytm should (and could) have been a sweet deal on ticketing margins, and for Paytm, a guarantee that popular OML events such as NH7 and the comedy shows will be across Insider and Paytm.

For Paytm, event ticketing will probably still remain a tiny part of their focus: a data point on slide six of a presentation focused more on how many wallets and Payments Bank accounts they run, and details of offline and online merchant transactions. A BookMyShow would have allocated significantly more management bandwidth to events ticketing. If BookMyShow was in the running for this deal, the consideration would have been around compete versus buy: why would they even need Insider? The primary reason for a BookMyShow acquisition would probably have been to prevent a Paytm acquisition.

What I’m wondering about is whether an Insider.in website will – and even should – survive this acquisition. Will being a horizontal really work for Paytm?