Big Red Tent, on bringing car camping to Indian metros


Organizing the ‘camping for vacation’ sector in India, Big Red Tent is letting people explore the joys of experimenting with their adventure getaways.Big Red Tent is a pioneer in India that promotes the idea of camping. “We applaud travel that is free-flow, do it yourself and involves exploration and our efforts are to support this”, says Rahil Mehta, co-founder. As a starting point to camping and introducing people to an outdoor vacation, they have set up two campgrounds, one in Khopoli and the other at Kolad (both in Maharashtra). On the camp-grounds, they help the guests experience what it is like to spend time in the outdoors, close to nature and travel sensitively and harmoniously with their environments. Their vision is to see India camping!

Rahil, who had a job in the US, quit and returned to India to start Big Red Tent. He says, “To do something in the outdoors was always on the cards. The idea was to do something impactful and scalable. Something that would reach out to a large audience and also something that was inherently good to do (at least to my mind)”. His camping experiences in the US assured him that something that he used to do while hiking in India could be done in a larger fashion reaching out to more people. That was the real trigger. “And then it was just the one day that I decided to take the plunge. It’s almost like a switch that you turn on.”Starting out, the initial challenges were predominantly related to the fact that this is a new business with no precedent. Further, the customer had to be guided to understand what Big Red Tent had to offer, this made their sales cycle longer. He says that the similar challenges continue even today but the happy campers they meet everyday makes it all worthwhile.

To ascertain the demand for a camping service like this, they did a preliminary market research with about 1000 responses before starting up but even today they are exploring newer customer segments to influence with the camping bug. And as a result, they are constantly evolving as a service and in their communication. “Currently, we discover new things about our customers every day! The demand is fair, but the real question is how many people want to experiment with their vacations and do something different?” Says Janki, co-founder. She re-affirms that today more and more people are willing to try camping for a vacation, which is a positive sign. Big Red Tent is Janki and Rahil’s second entrepreneurial venture together.

They define their target audience as, “anyone who wants to take the lead in adding some adventure to their vacations.” They happily announce that they transcend budgets, even though they currently cater mostly to the urban audiences in Mumbai and Pune.

At present, they are trying to perfect the scalable model for Big Red Tent. So far, the venture is self-funded. “It took us just the first few months to break even”, says Rahil. They are looking at investors and partners that are willing to commit to the bigger canvas of ‘Camping in India’ in terms of their time and/or money.Till now, with respect to marketing, they have only relied on word-of-mouth publicity backed with social media. Often, they try and reach out to micro-segments with promotions and partnerships such as NRI's, students, self-employed professionals, etc.

Talking about the future road map, Janki says, “The expansion plans are many - we want to put camping out there, encouraging people to get out and promote do-it-yourself holidays. We would like to be seen at various events and even urban recreational dos to get the message of camping through to our guests. We're very sure that we're going to be doing really exciting stuff in the days to come!”

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