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How We Built Our Own Travel Caravan & Launched a Rental Business

Looking for your next big adventure? We spoke to the founders of caravan rental startup Carvaa Travelers about how they turned their love for travel into a successful business.

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It was the year 2018. Four friends — journalist Jigyasu Joshi, photographer Himanshu Jangid, software engineer Yogesh Kumar and banker Pranav Sharma — all in their twenties, were all set to plan their next trip together.

It had been eight years since they’d been friends, and this time, they wanted to go the extra mile when it came to their travel plans. Today, that leap has resulted in Carvaa Travelers, a caravan rental service that is creating unforgettable trips and experiences for people across India.

Fueled by the love for travel

“Someone told us about the whole caravan experience and, adventurous as we were, we planned on building one for ourselves. We thought a DIY would be very cool,” says Jigyasu about how the group were intent on renting a caravan initially but were astounded by the exorbitant rates that most companies charged, and the hole it would burn in their pockets.

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This was when they stumbled upon the idea of introducing caravan travel to India, which would have a dual vantage — affordability, and offering people a shot at experiential travel.

“Caravanning,” says Himanshu, “is something that grows on you. One may not like it in the beginning but eventually, they do because it gives them a sense of being liberated and a chance to follow a route less explored. Travelling in a caravan is a concoction of comfort and adventure.”

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In 2019, the group bought base vehicles and started modifying them. This was the start of Carvaa Travelers. While Jigyasu and Yogesh quit their full-time jobs to dive fully into this new venture, the other two are involved in operations while continuing to work in their respective professional capacities.

Carvaa Travelers caravans

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The friends initially started off with two vehicles, and soon scaled this number to five. As their business began taking shape, they couldn’t hold their excitement at the prospect of this new venture.

But just then, the coronavirus pandemic struck.

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What they presumed would put a damper on the business, turned out to be a gamechanger. “Initially it was a shock for us, as travel was out of the question for many. But just when we thought the business was a dead end, it dawned on us that this was the perfect selling point,” says Jigyasu.

“People were scouting the internet for safe travel, physical distancing, travelling in a bubble away from crowds….and here were the caravans that were, by definition, all of these things,” he adds.

The fact that this form of travel was new and unique had people gravitating towards it faster than they thought. To add to it, it had a sense of thrill associated with it, as people had heard about their friends and relatives in other parts of the world caravanning, and now had a chance to experience it themselves.

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Along with giving vans on rent, the team also modifies and customises vehicles depending on what their clients would like. You can bring them your vehicle and they brainstorm to create the perfect travel experience for you, complete with the amenities you’d like.

A vehicle that accommodates three can be rented at Rs 5,500 per day, one that accommodates five people can be rented at Rs 7,500 per day, and one that accommodates eight can be rented at Rs 9,500 per day. The rentals are inclusive of the driver’s charges and GST. The fuel, state taxes and toll taxes are to be borne by the travellers.

Right from when the group started out, they were clear about the caravans having a kitchenette — with crockery and cutlery, an LPG cylinder with an exhaust system to minimise leakages, and a two-burner stove — as well as a washroom.

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Travelling in a caravan and being on the move can cause debate about how feasible a washroom is without being a messy affair. In their opinion, there needs to be a balance between practicality and eco-friendliness.

“We decided on not having chemical toilets as when the waste is dumped into the soil, the chemicals cause harm to it,” says Jigyasu. “Instead, we use a washroom model that uses minimal water. The waste is deposited in the grey tank below and once the tank is at a certain level, the driver takes the vehicle into a dumping ground and pulls the lever. Once this is done, the waste is disposed of. No one gets their hands dirty!”

However, he emphasises that windows should be closed during the dumping process, if you know what’s good for you.

How do you build your own caravan?

Starting a caravan rental business is no piece of cake. There are several regulations to follow, and it is a lengthy process until you finally get the vans on the road. For those looking to start a venture of their own in this space, the team breaks the process down into a series of steps.

Getting your caravan registered

He says, “There are caravan companies that, for the ease of the process, sometimes register their vehicles as tempo travellers. However, these vehicles need to be registered as camper vans.”

He recounts the nine-month ordeal they went through to get things in place. “Very few people know this, but Madhya Pradesh actually started caravan travels way back in 2010, but scrapped the idea as it did not work out. However, during our struggle to get registered, when we were running from pillar to post, someone told us that the process was much more conducive in this state, and we got it done there.”

Market research

“Experiential travelling is like a breath of fresh air,” says Pranav. “Travellers don’t want to simply visit sightseeing spots anymore. It was easier for us to understand this as we were part of the shift. We knew many people in our group who didn’t want to pick the conventional way of travelling. During our R&D, we came across a survey done by the Government of India on the domestic travel market. It suggested that the experiential form of travelling was gaining popularity and it was projected to grow manifold by 2026.”

RTO regulations

Depending upon the geographic regions you want to ply in, the tolls, the taxes etc. will differ. Take note of this.

Marketing

“We focus on social media and influencer marketing,” says Jigyasu. “For an upcoming company, they might wish to tap into an explored segment of marketing, and deciding on a strategy before starting off could be a great way to make the process seamless and get your business soaring.”

Yogesh adds that they are looking at scaling their operations by adding more caravans to their existing fleet, and modifying caravans for B2B and D2C purposes. “Carvaa is set to scale,” he points out, “as caravanning is becoming a more mainstream form of travelling. It is unique, exciting, and most importantly, comes with all the amenities that one needs while travelling.”

Ask them about their favourite hangout spots, and they say they can’t pick just one. “That’s the beauty about caravan travels,” says Jigyasu. “You stumble upon a spot that is deep into the mountains and think why not have some chai there, and that turns out to be your best moment. These places rarely have a name, but they come to mean something to you.”

Among their hot favourite locations are Rishikesh, Spiti Valley, Mussoorie, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, a village named Besariya, which is 60 km before Udaipur, and Patalpani in Madhya Pradesh.

Should you wish to hit the road and experience the magic of remote villages, the beauty of sitting by a hill, and the thrill of driving through the gorges, there is a caravan waiting to be taken for a ride. Here’s to a slice of adventure with your tea!

In a nutshell

Sector: Travel

What they do: Carvaa Travelers aims to provide people with an experiential travel experience.

Year founded: 2019

Headquarters: Delhi

Funding raised: Bootstrapped

Founders: Jigyasu Joshi, Yogesh Kumar, Himanshu Jangid, Pranav Sharma

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