Published: 03rd April 2019
Meet the Karnataka duo whose Made in India caravans will give you #TravelGoals
Caravans in namma Karnataka? This start-up, run by two inventive, self-driven wanderlusters, brings you desi-designed caravans that come with a driver and a host of motels that you can park and vacay
Though Sanjna Hangal and Vathsala Rangegowda had great jobs, they longed to start something on their own. Being avid travellers, they had experienced travelling in a caravan across Europe. It was only natural that when they decided to start-up, they put together a caravan rental service in Karnataka called Trippy Wheels.
In 2015, Sanjna was working with Volvo as a testing engineer and she had helped one of her friends set up a caravan. That's when she realised that there is no organised caravan culture in India. And coincidentally, that very summer she met Vathsala, who had worked for Levis, rather serendipitously in a caravan. "We both met in a caravan when we went tripping across Sweden. There was a campfire and we explored some of the uncharted parts of Sweden and it became a trip that I really loved. I shared my idea with Vathsala and she was all for joining my madness. That is when we decided to start our own caravan rental services, in 2015. In December 2017, we launched our company officially online. It was only from July 2018 that we started providing our services to unknown customers as well. Until then we provided it only to people in our inner circle," says Sanjna.
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The idea was to make caravan services affordable. The best way to keep costs low was to not import vehicles because of the massive cost involved. Rather smartly, they bought two second-hand Tata Wingers and within the first four months, they both took it on a test ride across various terrains in Karnataka. Sanjna says, "In the initial stages, we had some glitches as two vehicles were second-hand and the performance was not so good. But now we have added three more vehicles to the service which are brand new and we have done over 100 trips. People are really happy with what we have provided in our caravans."
Like most other bootstrapped start-ups, Sanjna and Vathsala worked on their own to modify the 'touring' vehicles into caravans. They used a small workshop located in Bengaluru's Magadi, where a fabricator runs a body shop for buses. Though building a caravan should have cost over Rs 30 lakh, they spent a lot less money because they were their own designers. It cost them about Rs 12.5 lakh to convert the Mahindra Imperio and Rs 18 lakh to convert the Tempo Traveller into a caravan.
Mahindra Imperio: It can hold seat up to five people and it also has bunk beds. There is extra space for the storage of the bags or things that you carry in
Like they've seen in other countries, Sanjna and Vathsala have built a caravan experience for travellers. Not just hiring the vehicles to rookies and letting them figure things out, "In western countries, there is a total ecosystem for caravans. There are caravan parks where one can cook food, camp, relax, access mobile charging points, Wi-Fi and much more. But in India, we don't have these services provided by the government. So, we have tied up with various home stays in Karnataka where people can have food, use restrooms and get secure parking for the vehicle for a minimal price. One can sleep inside the vehicle when it is parked," explains Sanjna.
For family vacay: As many as 12 people can sit in this and 8 can sleep comfortably. All their caravans come with an equipped kitchenette, music system, indoor and outdoor games and air conditioning, fans and lights
Since the Transport Department doesn't permit self-driven caravans, they also provide drivers who are called trip navigators. These trip navigators are well versed with the places that people want to travel to and the reviews have been awesome. Apparently, travellers have been asking the duo to paint the body of the caravans and make them vibrant, but the RTO won't have any of it — so they're staying with the original paint jobs.
The kitchenette comes with a stove, utensils and basic ingredients required for cooking like masala powders, chai, sugar, oil, salt etc. Rest of the ingredients have to be bought by the traveller on the go. The driver is provided with a separate sleeping bag so that the travellers' privacy is not disturbed
When you have pan-Indian expansion plans, you've got to work closely with the Tourism Department. Sanjna says, "People from places like Goa, Pune, Mumbai and Andaman and Nicobar Islands have shown interest and encouraged us to branch out. If we get the right kind of support from the government, then we can expand for sure."