Grilled vegetables, a sunset and a tent: the recipe for nature friendly outdoor experiences with LetsCampOutFrancesca Ferrario
“Imagine the joy of sleeping seven feet above the ground in a tent and watching the sunset by the sea,” says Abhijeet Mhatre, Founder of LetsCampOut. There are many things that motivate us, but for the LetsCampOut team the thrill comes from the pure beauty of unadulterated nature, and the pleasure of sharing it with others.
The company offers camping experiences in Maharashtra. “We have 12 sites in several areas including the stretch of Lonavla, Rajmachi, Phanasrai, Tungarli and Shirota besides more relaxed camping experiences at Kashid, Kaas, Matheran and Panchgani,” says Abhijeet.
After several disappointing experiences with the quality and type of camping equipment available in India four years ago, Abhijeet decided to do something proactive. “I was working for an international banking firm and was selected for a project in Chennai. Since I was relocated, I was given an additional daily allowance for almost three years. I made this my initial capital and pumped it into start LetsCampOut,” he says.
Soon, Abhijeet’s friend Amit Jambotkar, who shared his passion for outdoor life, left a senior position in the hospitality sector and joined the LetsCampOut venture.
“The objective was simplifying camping, thereby inculcating a love for the outdoors in India in the year 2010,” explains Abhijeet. “We started out with just a few tents and one camp ground. Since camping was an unexplored territory and our timing was just about right, our passionate project quickly became a scalable business model,” he says.
The first batch of customers were outdoor adventure enthusiasts. Slowly, the crowd expanded and diversified. “In the last couple of years, more families, groups of women, friends and couples have visited us. People nowadays do not have the time and are always looking for simpler getaways and want to do something adventurous to beat the stress,” Abhijeet continues. “Activities like sky gazing are a huge hit with the corporates. We also cater to a niche audience through initiatives like ‘Pets Camp Out’ and ‘Out & Loud’ to promote camping with pets and music respectively.”
LetsCampOut has a solid customer base and followers. They offer different types of equipment, services, and activities including barbeques, rock climbing, night treks in the jungle, and astronomy sessions with experts. However, the company stands out for their attention to the environment and the relation with village communities in the camp sites. “We own all our campsites and are able to establish our own policies,” Abhijeet continues, “All the food is locally sourced as per eco tourism norms and the campsites use solar lights to reduce the carbon footprint. There is no construction at the campsites and we use locally available material to boost the local economy.”
“After four years, we can proudly say that we are blessed to own the highest inventory of camping gears to adventure equipment and are able to create job opportunities and resources to run an entire village that is working with us,” adds Abhijeet.
“Our main focus till date has been on Mumbai and Pune, however we are now expanding down south and up north too. We partner with properties that share similar synergies with our company such as Sulafest, NH7, India Bike Week, The Lost Party to engage with our target audience and let them enjoy a firsthand experience of LetsCampOut at these events,” he says.
The LetsCampOut venture has proceeded slowly upward, moulding its culture into the sum of its learning. The team of 20 is spread across Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore and has always believed in a flat hierarchy to maximise the benefit of sharing experiences, achievements and mistakes. Moreover, the CEO of the company is the Founder, MBA, Mocha Bike Association, which was the first big order at LetsCampOut in 2010.
Among the challenges that the company has to face, the trickiest is that, “the industry is being saturated with inexperienced and fly-by-night operators, who are not only bringing the ticket size down but also putting people at risk,” says Abhijeet, mentioning an incident that took place a few months ago in Lonavla. “We received a frantic call from a set of parents who had lost contact with their children while they were trekking. There were around 150 children with only two instructors and it was raining heavily. Through the internet, the parents found that we have sites in the area and asked us if we could do something to track the children. Our village collaborators got to know that they were stuck near a stream and were able to help them reach a safe spot in Lonavla.”
The dedication that LetsCampOut has shown has been remarkable. A further step could be taken by sharing information about safety and environment. Camping outdoor is not only a recreational activity, but also an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of nature. Questioning every detail, from safety to waste management and the type of solar panels used, is a more responsible way of outdoor camping.
Check more about LetsCampOut here