Eight Bengaluru-based startups with innovative ideas in the tourism sector were declared the hackathon winners on World Tourism Day, which enables them to be eligible for government startup funds between Rs 5 lakh to Rs 40 lakh each.
The Karnataka Startup Cell and the State Tourism Department had organised the hackathon to crowdsource innovative applications that can promote tourism.
The winners were funded to the tune of a total of Rs 1.80 crore today, and their applications will be used by the Tourism department to promote, boost and infuse tech into tourism and tourist experiences in Karnataka and its capital Bengaluru.
When the first such competition in the country was announced by IT, BT and Tourism minister Priyank Kharge a fortnight ago, he had said his department had set aside Rs 2.5 crore to fund such startups, with selected companies being eligible for a maximum funding of Rs 50 lakh each.
He had said:
The hackathon titled ‘Pitch to the Government’ is an attempt to identify those with innovative solutions and products that can be piloted or used immediately. That means we will look for serious players as well as those who have taken their idea to an advanced level.
On September 24th, a total of 127 online registrations were received from various startups under the Karnataka Startup Policy 2015-2016. Of these pitches, 49 were selected and 12 made it to the final round, where they then made pitches directly to the minister on September 25th, which resulted in eight of them being picked as winners today. The jury consisted of eminent members of the ecosystem, NASSCOM, IAMAI and officers from the startup cell and tourism departments.
Literally translated as `come’ in Hindi, co-founder Saurabh Jain told YourStory that they received Rs 40 lakh as the department connected with the founders’ idea of a travellers’ hostel on the lines of European hostels, which will help bring in a greater number of foreign backpackers.
"As of now, we run a 20-bed travellers’ hostel in Koramangala, Bengaluru, and cater to those between 20 and 30 years of age,’’ said Saurabh.
They are currently building a website and a mobile app that will help aggregate the existing 120-odd travellers’ hostels across India. With the funding, he said they will scale up and open up the idea to set up more such travellers’ hostels in Karnataka, which already boasts of several different types of stays. The idea of such hostels is one of where the youth can have fun, engaging with each other instead of getting cooped up in rooms watching television.
Saurabh also said the company will help revamp tourism department properties, with Mysore being offered as a first test case.
It received Rs35 lakh. Rajesh G, its founder, said that with this app, one can explore pit stops with proper amenities, and browse verified locations like restaurants, hotels and fuel pumps with facilities.
Or one can simply put on the search button and search the locality around his/her current location. There are great filters available, allowing users to filter by credit cards, 24 hours, AC and non-AC, play area and more. In an unfortunate situation, help is just a click away, where you can find a mechanic or emergency number for immediate assistance.
The app has information that covers 2,700 km of state and national highways in Karnataka and a total of more than 6,000 km of roads across India, a majority of which Rajesh himself has travelled and certified.
"The State Tourism Department understood that we are easing the pain points of travellers. With the funding, we will scale up our merchant app model as well as help document the facilities along the state’s tourist circuits. A larger plan is to integrate multiple languages in the app as data shows that there are 1.4 billion domestic travellers around the country,’’ he said.
The company received Rs25 lakh, and founder Naveen Subbaraman is gung-ho about it. Naveen already runs a resort discovery platform www.highir.com. A photographer himself, he will help the state showcase its destinations using best-in-class imaging tech, aerial panoramic imaging, VR-enabled content and drone videography. The company will design a web platform to seamlessly connect all this along with curated data.
This startup received Rs 5 lakh. Founder Sanjeev Shenoy said he had showcased his triponfood website, which just went live. Trip On Food, as the name suggests, is a concept based on food tourism. It has a website and an app for booking culinary experiences lasting from a mere four hours to a week.
Sanjeev has taken the food trail to the next level by incorporating ideas such as taking the interested to the market to buy ingredients for the cookout as well as showcasing the whole cooking process like travel chefs do it on TV. ``We have received Rs 5 lakh only as this is less about technology and more about the experience. We were selected for our theme-based culinary trails that encourage travellers to explore local cuisine through walks and vacations, which the government wants to promote,’’ says Sanjeev.
The four other companies that received funding were DigiTour Technologies (Rs 25 lakh) led by its co-founder Anand Babu, Aseuro Technologies (Rs 25 lakh), Trip Diary (Rs 20 lakh) and Moving Up Products (Rs 5 lakh).
Kharge is delighted with the pitches and the ideas that these startups are bringing to the table. It will help them take their concepts from the Idea2PoC stage.
The winners will now have to register with the Karnataka Startup Cell to be eligible for funding.
Tourism Secretary Naveen Raj Singh said a Memorandum of Agreement will now be signed with those selected and the department will enable them to get funds in tranches over a period of one year. The tourism department will work with the selected startups closely to fine tune and roll out their solutions.
ITBT Principal Secretary V Manjula said a number of state government departments had come forward to contribute to the Idea2PoC fund created by the ITBT department under the Multi-Sector Startup Policy of Karnataka after the minister wrote to all the departments asking them to contribute Rs 1 crore to infuse technology into their respective departments. "Our objective is to nurture at least 100 ideas per annum under this initiative,’’ she added.