As avid travelers, Deepak Ananth and Vineet Rajan realized the need for getting a single source of travel related information instead of the fragmented and subjective manner of information available on net that actually confused the users more than it could ever help. The need for reliable information led the duo to build an information rich platform ScoutMyTrip that provides travelers all possible location, travel and emergency information and support for planning a safe trip.
Team NewsBarons spoke with Deepak Ananth, CEO and Vineet Rajan, CMO at ScoutMyTrip about their new ‘Road Trip’ venture and their plans to make ScoutMyTrip as one of the most preferred platform for travelers to plan any holiday that has any element of road travel involved.
NB: Explain the working and key features of ScoutMyTrip?
Deepak: ScoutMyTrip is a Do -it- Yourself road trip platform. 60%of all vacations in India have a road trip element in it. But planning and gathering of information to do one takes a lot of time and effort because the information to efficiently plan one, takes a lot of searching and planning. ScoutMyTrip can create your complete itinerary for your road trip within a few minutes by giving you the power to choose where to stay, eat or what you want to do along the way?
ScoutMyTrip is rich in information in all places ranging from the Himalayas to Kanyakumari. One can scout for halts, over 12,000 points of interest, gas stations, toilets along the way, multiple routes, hotels and pick from ready-made road trips that have been planned by others.
Apart from this you can interact with members of the very active travel community and get inputs about the routes that you plan and get up to date information about various facets of your travel. So, from road conditions to your stay, ScoutMyTrip has you completely covered.
For example, you can discover places in the discover tab- just put in the place you want to travel from , a range of kilometers you want to travel and you get a list of all the destinations in the vicinity! You can then customize your trip the destination, as simple as that! No more worrying and discussing with a hundred people to check where you can go for that long weekend.
NB: How does one rely on the accuracy of information?
Deepak: As a technology platform, ScoutMyTrip relies on a two pronged approach to gather information. We have tie ups with the market leaders like google, Here, Hotels.com, Agoda.com etc to get a lot of their information and present it to the user in a way that is easy for them to understand. These are verified listings and therefore very accurate. We also rely on the community scouts to give us a lot of information using tools specially designed for them. Using techniques like geo tagging and verified listings, we maintain a very very high degree of accuracy of points posted.
NB: Do you provide support to your travelers during their trip, if an emergency situation arises?
Vineet: ScoutMyTrip has a 24 hour chat line open on the platform and our numbers are published across all communication for any help required during or before travel. We also have an active Scout Community that can be reached at a very short notice in case of emergencies. We are in the process of tying up with third party Road assistance services for any vehicular emergencies. As an additional information set, hospitals and emergency numbers for the highways are prominently displayed on the platform and on the itinerary printed for the users.
NB: Google maps and other such apps provide all required information to travelers. How do you differentiate yourself from them?
Deepak: Google currently is a mapping engine, we have also partnered with them and use their services for most of the features so that our feature set matches and adds on to theirs. In addition, ScoutMyTrip provides the facility to plan a trip from scratch and we take you through the steps with a mindset of an experienced traveler. The end point is that you have a single page which will give you all the relevant information to help you plan before you travel and navigate while you travel. None of the other providers currently offer both these together. Our other key differentiator is the travel community that is there to help you plan the travel and give you localised tips on how to make you holiday better.
NB: What is your current user base and geographical reach?
Vineet: We have currently 20,000+ users and have restricted ourselves to the Indian subcontinent. This is purely a choice that we have made and the technology and partnerships we have in place can see us expanding to international locations across borders.
NB: What is your revenue generation model?
Deepak: We have multiple models that have been activated.
The user does not have to pay for using the platform. It is completely free for them to scout and plan their next road trip. There is a B2C model where, once the user plans their trip, the hotels bookings, if done through ScoutMyTrip will generate us the affiliate booking. Again the User does not have to bear the charges or pay us directly for the same, this is a back-end tie up we have with aggregators. Similar models exists for car and bike rentals, insurance, road side assistance and various other services that the user may opt for. We are also building an e-commerce platform where the road trip to a particular type of region will prompt a package that is purchased from the platform. For eg. A camping trip will prompt the user to buy all required items as a single click purchase, everything required to camp from tents to flint to sleeping bags , hiking boots etc.
We also have a robust B2B revenue model where we help brands create stories around their products while on a road trip. We amplify the brand message using various social media channels and have access to a large set of social media influencers to improve reach and range of the message. We also help the brand connect to their customers specifically through the platform using means such as campaigns and advertisements on the platform.
We have already started generating revenue through all these channels from the second month of operations itself!
NB: What are the challenges that you face in this market?
Vineet: One of the challenges we face is the constant need to keep the information updated on road condition and also to keep the data base updated with the latest discovery to build road trips. We overcome this by involving the community of travelers who are more than ready to contribute to make, what is essentially their platform, even better.
NB: Have you raised funds? If yes, where do you plan to deploy these funds?
Deepak: We have raised a round of funding from a Silicon Valley based fund. They are present in India as ZNation labs and amongst other things manage a co working space in Mumbai. The funds are being deployed mainly in marketing and certain Capex related purchases required to ensure that the platform is easily reachable to the next traveler before he or she plan their road trip.
NB: Mission 2020?
Deepak: We plan to expand operations to outside India in the very near future. We are ready with the blue print to try newer markets and see how we can contribute to the road trip ecosystem in any way we can. Our first milestone is to reach a million users and seeing the current traction, we hope to get there in the next 9 months to a year.
Our aspiration is to be the platform of choice for the user when they want to plan any holiday that has any element of road travel involved.
NB: What will be the impact of GST on your business?
Deepak: Ours is a service business. Most of the payments and charges are for services rendered. Therefore, the GST roll out is definitely welcomed! Once the product sales on the platform increases we would definitely benefit from it.