The launch of LuxeCamper, India’s first commercially approved premium motorhome last week by Campervan Camps and Holidays India Pvt Ltd., couldn’t be better timed. Given that Indians are longing to travel after being locked in for three months but are still concerned about coronavirus at large, travelling to exotic destinations in a private caravan, which doubles up as your hotel sounds perfect.
This is the brainchild of Tiger Ramesh, a tech entrepreneur and wildlife photographer. Last year in June-July, Ramesh who was in the middle of a tiger Reserve in Karnataka realised that caravan tourism in India didn’t exist. He decided to address this gap by founding LuxeCamper.
Through the venture, the company offers motorhomes and guided trails to pristine destinations such as forests, beaches and places of historic significance. People can choose between guided trails in Karnataka or create their own itinerary. The company has partnered with small lodges, homestays and select campsites of Jungle Lodges and Resorts Ltd. for camping.
The project is backed by former Indian cricketer Anil Kumble, international musician Vijay Prakash, Founder of TaxiforSure Aprameya Radhakrishna; Founder of CapriCoast (HomeLane) Jawad Ayaz, Former Global Head of Sales and Marketing for Infosys Subhash Dhar and IT-industry veteran Phaneesh Murthy. The former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Karnataka Forest Department, Vinay Luthra, has also joined the board as a Director and an Advisor to LuxeCamper.
100% made in India
The concept of travelling in motorhomes is almost non-existent in India. This is primarily because there are no companies that manufacture motorhomes in the country, shares Ramesh. “People generally buy tempo travellers or buses and then send it to a fabricator to be modified. This does not make them motorhome manufacturers,” says Ramesh. This is for private use only.
Ramesh also added that a couple of Indian websites that appear to sell modified motorhomes online have, in reality, shut shop but the websites continue to live on in the digital world.
Another reason is that caravans need a transport license for tourism. “A transport category caravan was not available for sale in the market. So, we developed our own motorhome,” adds Ramesh.
LuxeCamper’s motorhomes have been manufactured in Bengaluru, using German design inputs. These motorhomes, which cost close to a crore to manufacture have been registered with Automotive Research Association of India.
The motorhomes were almost ready when the country went into lockdown. Ramesh saw the potential in people travelling in caravans while maintaining social distancing and turned the lockdown into an opportunity.
“As soon as unlock 1.0 was initiated, we made certain adjustments to the motorhomes. Earlier, the focus was on privacy but social distancing took over. As a result, we isolated the driver’s cabin from the rest of the motorhome. The air being circulated in the two areas is completely different. We also ensured that guests can control the entry and exit from the cabin. No outsiders can enter the cabin. It has been designed in such a manner that passengers are comfortable and feel that they are in a safe environment,” says Ramesh.
Ramesh’s motorhomes were launched by Karnataka’s Chief Minister B. S. Yediyurappa on June 17.
On the road
Since the launch, LuxeCamper has already had its first two trips and there are more bookings all through July. “The response has been very interesting and we have received a couple of hundred inquiries in a week’s time. The greatest concern is of safety and fear of contamination. Also, since there is a government recommendation for kids below 10 years and elderly above the age of 60 to stay indoors, some people are still considering whether they should travel,” explains Ramesh.
“We currently have two vehicles and hope to add eight more during the year. Currently, the motorhomes can accommodate a total of four people, but the new ones will be able to accommodate eight,” adds Ramesh.
Travelling in caravans has always been a self-drive experience, but, these motorhomes have drivers. This is primarily because one needs a heavy transport vehicle license to drive it. Those who are planning to make a trip after a couple of months and would like to drive the motorhome themselves would need to apply for it.
Beyond state borders
Currently, Campervan Camps and Holidays India Pvt Ltd. is offering their caravans for travel within Karnataka but plan to extend the itinerary to Kerela, Tamil Nadu and Goa in the near future. Ultimately, they plan to operate pan-India in the next two-three years.
“Everything has been a challenge because such a product or business model doesn’t exist in India. We need to work out logistics for parking, ground staff, and find camping sites. There is a lead time to produce these vehicles and we also need to adhere to the transport act of various states,” says Ramesh.
He added that as the assets are mobile, they will move around the inventory as per the demand and also plan to have hubs in Mumbai and Delhi.
On being asked about the future of travel, Ramesh commented that caravan tourism is here to stay. “The travel & tourism industry has been affected due to the pandemic. The different state governments should encourage caravan tourism to revive the industry and come up with caravan friendly policy. Currently, each caravan has a road tax of 3,50,000 lakh per annum!,” exclaims Ramesh as he signs off.