Zen Rooms secures US$15mn funding from South Korea’s Yanolja

From left: Zen Rooms' Nathan Boubil and Kiren Tanna; and Yanolja's

South Korean accommodation platform Yanolja has invested US$15 million for a “significant” stake in Zen Rooms, with the right to acquire the South-east Asian budget hotel chain and online booking platform in full.

Founded in 2015 by former Foodpanda co-founder Kiren Tanna and Nathan Boublil, Zen Rooms said it is distinct from other hotel franchises in the segment in that it is vertically integrated, combining room booking, branding, sales and management with a self-developed online/mobile.

From left: Zen Rooms’ Nathan Boubil and Kiren Tanna; and Yanolja’s Lee Su-jin and Kim Jong-yoon

The company has presence in five South-east Asian countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Within three years, Zen Rooms said its business has grown to over 1,000 economy hotel franchisees and over 7,000-room inventory.

Zen Rooms plans to use the capital to expand its inventory base in current and new markets and continue to invest in technology.

For Yanolja, the investment marks its foray beyond South Korea and into the fast growing South-east Asian region.

Zen Rooms signage at a property in Indonesia

Vice president of Yanolja, Jong-yoon Kim, commented: “Starting with this strategic investment into Zen Rooms, we shall seek to expand to become the most affordable hotel chain and first fully integrated booking platform for leisure activities as well as hotels, going beyond the domestic domain to around the globe.”

Kim added that the company intends to better cater to both domestic and foreign travellers by applying innovative technologies including the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence.

South-east Asia is a favourite tourist destination for South Korean travellers. Moreover, a sizeable 17 per cent of foreign travellers to South Korea comes from South-east Asia.

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