Sometimes a region—in a bid to become a coveted tourist spot—gets caught in its own trap. Take the curious case of Goa—a state buckling under its own aspirations and losing its beauty in the process. Goa’s unique history and character is under threat due to unsustainable tourism practices. Vehicular congestion is adding to the rising levels of air pollution and the burgeoning number of tourists are leaving behind piles of garbage year after year.
What if, in this scenario, someone offers to help you see the true Goa—with its charming architecture and interesting antiquity—in an eco-friendly way?
B:Live, a venture by Arcis Clean Energy, is the brainchild of Samarth Kholkar and Sandeep Mukherjee who wanted to bring about a new wave of sustainable mobility in India and they started with Goa. The company, in a short span of just three months, has managed to make an impact.
“The whole idea behind starting this company was to provide a clean, green way of discovering a new location or city,” said Sandeep, in a conversation with The Better India.
B:Live is India’s first electric-vehicle based tourism company, and they are now in a 20-year contract with the Government of Goa, to manage and operate electric vehicle tourism across the state.
Both the founders bring with them a corporate experience of 15 years and a friendship of that many years.
Samarth, who is from Goa, felt that the clean and green State he had grown up in was getting lost due to the burgeoning tourism leading to congestion and pollution. He realised that there was an urgent need to address the issue.
“And that was when the idea of using electric vehicles to explore the unexplored side of Goa came to us,” says Sandeep.
Sandeep goes on to say, “I spent about four years in Europe and I was able to see first-hand, the kind of impact using e-vehicles made to the lives of people and the environment. It was this model that I was keen on replicating in India as well. Sustainable mobility was what excited me.”
What does B:Live do?
B:Live uses e-vehicles to conduct tours in, currently, four places in Goa. The vehicle is an electric bike and is just like a regular cycle, which you can ride on roads, streets, mountains, and beaches.
The motor that is attached to the cycle gets activated as soon as one starts pedalling and the effort required is minimal, says Sandeep.
“Whether it is a climb or a regular stretch, one can really just whizz through it. Given that this vehicle leaves behind minimal carbon footprint, it is also a guilt-free way of exploring.”
A very experienced tour captain accompanies you on every tour. These are people from the local community who will give you a real sense of what Goa is to them and reveal a part of it that you would otherwise never get to see.
“We have astronomers, architects, and local artists, amongst many others, who are a part of our tour captain pool,” informs Samarth.
B:Live is environmentally conscious
The point from where the tours begin is called e-hubs. These e-hubs are refurbished, old shipping containers that work as both the charging point and storage of the vehicles.
These shipping containers are anywhere between ten to fifteen years old. “One more thing we have done is that give a cloth bag to each of our clients as they start the tour. These are the small ways of ensuring that we move away from plastics and start living a truly environmentally conscious life. Responsible tourism is what we are promoting,” says Samarth.
Small touches that make the tour stand apart
Imagine your tour guide regaling you with a story about a particular statue, and suddenly, a group of musicians begin to play a song—your old favourite—at that very moment. These are some of the elements that Samarth and Sandeep have worked on to ensure that B:Live stands apart from others.
“In the island tour, our clients also stop for breakfast at a 150-year-old house and have a traditional spread—all home-cooked. We have integrated all these elements to show the best that Goa has to offer,” says Samarth.
“The first paying customer we had was a gentleman from Mexico. He had come to Goa for the International Film Festival, and it was just the second day of our operations. As someone who had visited Goa multiple times earlier, he heard about B:Live and was very happy to try us out. The clean and green bit was what fascinated him,” says Samarth. From then on, there has been no looking back; the company has been growing steadily.
How can you get in touch?
If you are interested in what B:Live offers, then you can book a tour either via the official B:Live website here or the Goa Tourism Development Corporation website here. Heritage, culture, exploring an island, or just exploring a church – you just have to pick a package, and you are good to go.
Samarth also informed TBI that the electric vehicle is for all. “We have had people who are upwards of 60 years of age travel with us with absolutely no difficulty whatsoever,” he says.
The minimum age requirement to access the vehicles is 12. Given that these are motorised vehicles with a top speed of 25 km/hr, it is advisable for only those above the stipulated age to ride them. These vehicles are also equipped with GPS trackers and electronic disc brakes.
On an average, a tour which lasts for between 2-3 hours, will cost you anywhere between Rs 1500 to Rs 2000.
Details about the duration of the tour, difficulty level, and map that needs to be followed are all mentioned on the website.
Plans for the Future
Both Samarth and Sandeep are confident about taking this concept to other cities soon. “Goa is a test-case for us, and with all the that we have learnt from here, we will be taking this concept to other places. We are a pan-India venture and very soon will be present in every tourist hub. To start with, we are looking at Puducherry, Kerala, Rajasthan, Hampi in Karnataka. By the end of 2020, we will be in at least 6 new locations,” says Samarth.
The company is, currently, in talks with various angel investors and private individuals who believe in the company and its vision. Samarth concludes by saying that an announcement about a possible capital infusion is likely to be made soon.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)
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