Sitting around the campfire and connecting with nature can be one of the most relaxing ways to enjoy the outdoors.
Despite the growing popularity of camping in the country, booking camps has been one of the biggest challenges as the industry is highly unorganised. While campers (travellers) don’t have many options to choose from, camp owners are still managing their bookings like they used to do back in the 90s due to limited marketing knowledge.
In a quest to bridge the gap between travellers and camp owners, Kashish Pahwa and Mitul Agrawal started HireACamp in December 2019.
The Dehradun-based startup provides a single platform for travellers to search, discover, and instantly book from a wide range of campsites offered on the marketplace, including hill, beach, jungle, luxury, and budget camping.
“We have built HireACamp after staying/experiencing at several camps, understanding problems as travellers, and communicating with the hosts while camping. HireACamp is trying to organise the way camping is being managed and experienced in India,” Kashish adds.
The app is available only for Android users at present.
Bitten by the travel bug
According to the co-founders, HireACamp’s journey began with an endeavour to solve problems that most travellers face while searching and booking a camping site.
In 2018, Kashish Pahwa, an engineering drop-out, was planning a camping trip with his friends to Rishikesh and could not come across any promising website to book camp stays. This prompted him to dive deep, and after further research, he came up with the idea of HireACamp. He was joined by Mitul Agrawal, a computer engineering graduate.
“I contacted Mitul via a mutual friend. Mitul, who was working on another idea, immediately noticed potential in the camping industry and was on-board in no time,” says Kashish.
The startup now has a team of seven members.
How does it work?
To connect travellers and camp owners, the startup has adopted a two-pronged approach. On one side, it provides travellers easy access to explore and book a camp in their preferred area, while on the other hand, it enables camp owners to list their campsite on the platform by providing all the details of their property, including photographs, amenities, itinerary, camp access, etc.
The startup also allows travellers to make changes (dates, bio, profile picture) and cancel their booking from their HireACamp account and processes refunds automatically.
“Travellers can share personal experience, photographs, and their review of the campsite on the portal. This can help other travellers make a decision and keep camp owners motivated to give proper customer experience so as to keep their campsite ratings healthy,” Kashish says.
According to BusinessWire, the global camping and motor homes market reached a value of nearly $49.9 billion in 2019, having grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.6 percent since 2015.
The market saw a decline in 2020 due to economic slowdown across countries owing to the COVID-19 outbreak and the measures to contain it. However, the market is expected to recover and grow at a CAGR of 8 percent from 2021 and reach $59.6 billion in 2023.
“Travel industry is the worst hit industry from COVID-19. States like Maharashtra are the worst hit. But we’ve stayed positive. We’ve been working closely with camphosts to educate them regarding sanitisation of camps, hygiene, and social distancing of guests,” says Kashish.
“One good thing about camping is, unlike hotels, you’re not limited to a room, it’s outdoors, which means more ventilation. We saw a good growth in March 2021 and were almost sold out in Rishikesh. I’m sure post vaccination people will go camping in large numbers and we are prepared for that,” he adds.
Earlier this month, HireACamp announced raising an undisclosed amount of growth capital from the Indian Angel Network (IAN) in a seed round. The round was led by IAN’s angel investors including Hari Balasubramanian, Uday Chatterjee, and Dr Uma Kant Panwar. The startup said the funding will be utilised to scale up operations and hire passionate people with a focus to improve the overall experience of travellers — right from booking to staying.
“We believe that finding an outdoor stay should be just as easy as finding the indoor one. HireACamp is like AirBnB for camping and India’s first platform through which travellers can book their stay instantly anywhere in the country. We intend to dominate this industry by capitalising on our first-mover advantage and we are glad to receive support from marquee investors who have become a part of our journey,” Kashish tells YS.
Competition and business model
Kashish says, there are not many players in this space in India. Some of the startups operating in this segment include Deyor Camps, Campmonk, Moonstone Hammock, etc. Globally, there are players like Hipcamp, Autocamp, Tentrr and Collective Retreats among others.
“HireACamp works on a simple revenue model where a certain commission is charged (from the host) on each booking made through the platform,” adds Kashish.
The startup, which has partnered with 140 campgrounds across India, claims it saw 500 percent growth in terms of revenue in March compared to the previous month.
HireACamp’s target is to bring every campsite that exists in India on the marketplace. The startup is also looking to expand beyond India including Nepal, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka in the coming years.