Google is increasing its efforts in India after it snapped up the team behind popular transportation app “Where is my Train.”
The app claims 10 million registered users and, as the name suggests, it helps commuters track arrivals and departures as well as buying seats. That’s no small job, given that India is estimated to operate some 14,000 trains on a daily basis across the country. The app is for Android, it works offline or with poor connectivity and supports eight languages. It is rivaled by VC-backed companies like RailYatri and iXigo.
There’s no official price for the deal, although India’s Economic Times is reporting that it is in the region of $30-$40 million. The site reported on Google’s interest back in August, when it wrote that other suitors included Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi. A Google spokesperson confirmed the deal to TechCrunch, but declined to provide a price.
Sigmoid Labs, the company that develops the train app, was founded by four former TiVo executives in 2013. Economic Times reports that it has around 10 staff. It is unclear how much money it has raised to date.
The company told customers news of the acquisition on its website earlier today.
“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,” its founders wrote.
Google said that the Where is my Train team would “continue to build on the current offering,” so it seems that the app won’t be shuttered immediately, at least.
The service’s significant user base would suggest that Google might look to develop and expand its scope to perhaps touch on other areas. Ride-hailing apps, for example, have moved into adjacent spaces, including entertainment, payments and food delivery, to take advantage of their position as daily apps.
That’s all conjecture at this point. But it also stands to reason that Google could fold it into other apps, including Google Maps, although that certainly isn’t the plan at this point.
The deal falls under Google’s “Next Billion User” division, which is developing products and services to help increase internet adoption in emerging markets. To date that has focused strongly on India, where Google has developed data-friendly “lite” versions of popular apps like YouTube, and initiatives like public Wi-Fi for India’s rail network that’s used by more than eight million people.
That scope has also covered services, with Google looking at apps that provide information and utility to Indian consumers. Google launched an on-demand app and a mobile payment service last year, and this year it released a neighborhood Q&A service. The Where is my Train deal certainly fits that strategy, and you’d imagine it’ll become a core part of Google’s consumer-facing product line in India.
The deal is also one of the most significant to date for a U.S.-based tech firm in India. Facebook, Twitter, Google and even Yahoo have made acquisitions to build teams or acquire talent, but Where is my Train seems significantly more strategic as a product.