Startups in the tourism sector are rare, and those receiving support from the government are even rarer. But here are three startups in the highly fragmented sector whose ground-breaking ideas in the space have caught the Karnataka government’s attention, netting them hefty investments.
From digital tours of ancient monuments to virtual tour assistants using Artificial Intelligence to make your journey easier, here is a sneak peek at how startups are changing the tourism scene in Karnataka.
DigiTour Technologies has come out with a sample of UNESCO Heritage site Hampi’s famed monuments, granting users an interactive digital tour streamed onto their mobile phones.
Anand Babu C, an IIM graduate from rural Karnataka, saw an opportunity here as he felt that there was not enough explanation to satisfy the curious tourist visiting Hampi.
His startup, based in Hagari Bommanahalli in Bellary district, produces 360 degree imaging and photography of these monuments. The video clip has numerous audio icons, which those interested can click on to learn more.
Anand insists that DigiTour is a social innovation. The company has proposed two business models – the government can either allow them to sell scratch cards to tourists for this experience, or pay a licensing fee and include the cost in the tickets.
DigiTour has set up hotspots, allowing tourists to access the digital tour of a particular monument when they stand in front of it. The tour is streamed onto their mobile device without the need of an internet facility.
The Karnataka government was impressed with the idea at a pitch it organised for startups in the field, and assured the company of funding to the tune of Rs 25 lakh, which allowed DigiTour to work in Hampi and come up with a detailed project.
The digital tour is currently available in English and Kannada, the local language, with a third capability of incorporating a foreign language also being developed.
Apart from the audio explanations, in the famous Hampi musical pillars, the sound effects have also been reproduced.
Here is a youtube link https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#search/anand/158439a07ddcc0a3?projector=1 to understand DigiTour better.
Srikanth Iyer of Aseuro Technologies also bagged investment from the government at the pitch held by the Karnataka Startup Cell and the State Tourism Department. His startup idea of audio guides netted funds to the tune of Rs 25 lakh.
In 2014, when Srikanth took his family on a trip to North India, he found that tour guides in many historical places were in a great hurry to wrap up their tours, and that their knowledge was, at best, shallow. Even bulky audio guides with earphones were not of much help when it came to providing details and arousing the interest of the traveller.
An idea took root in Srikanth’s mind then and there, and he started to develop audio guides once back home. He spent a lot of time looking at people’s reactions and studied where they came from in order to understand what would interest them. He aims for the audio guide to interest everyone, from teenagers to senior citizens.
As Srikanth is from the South, he chose to start with Madurai’s Meenakshi temple and Mysore palace.
The app, called Pinakin, can be downloaded for free from both Google Play and the App Store. Pinakin is bilingual and can work offline. The best thing about the content is the way in which it appeals to both English-speaking and vernacular audiences. “For example, in the Mysore palace audio, while in English, the darbar hall is described in all its splendour, in Kannada, the audience is told that this was where Dr Rajkumar, a popular Kannada actor, shot a very popular song.”
Srikanth has enlisted a music director to compose the score for every audio. The audio can be downloaded anywhere and heard offline.
The Karnataka government’s funding will go towards, among other things, developing an audio guide for three government museums in Bengaluru. This project is extremely challenging, given how someone listening on their cell phone has to be in front of the particular object that is being described. To overcome this, the audio clips and the exhibits will be numbered in sync with each other.
Srikanth says that Pinakin redefines your travel, and will become an essential companion to connect with the places you visit. He understands that the content should be fun and informative at the same time. Most of the content on Pinakin is available in three languages – English, Hindi and a local language (at present, either Kannada or Tamil).
Pinakin will eventually carry more content that is of tourist interest, such as palaces, temples, museums, parks and heritage sites.
The app can be downloaded from http://pinakinapp.com
Tripdairy is a chatbot on Facebook Messenger that takes care of the complete travel needs of clients, from the planning stage to booking options to post-trip. A virtual travel assistant, it sizes up a client’s preferences through previous booking profiles.
Tripdairy holds significant potential for corporates, which have little time to interact with hotels or make the relevant inquiries. The chatbot aims to help clients work like clockwork and stay on schedule.
Co-founder Smaran Subbaiah says that his company is focused on making their virtual assistant more personal and smart, allowing you to enjoy a hassle-free holiday or corporate trip.
Tripdairy will provide assistance throughout one’s travel; we are also setting up chatbots at hotel sites that answer queries like ‘What’s the wifi password?’ and ‘Till what time is breakfast available?’. These chatbots will also be able to obey instructions like ‘Clean my room before I return at the end of the day’. In addition to that, they will help book a cab from the airport too.’’
Even after the trip, the bot contributes to your experience, uploading photos and the like.
“We plan to be big, and that’s the reason the Karnataka government has funded us to the tune of Rs 20 lakh. As a pilot project, we are setting up a chatbot for Jungle Lodges and Resorts, a group of premium properties owned by the government of Karnataka, as well as the state's popular Mayura brand of hotels,” he says.
At the moment, they don’t have a payment gateway and depend on the client’s gateway for bookings. But www.tripdairy.com promises to scale up soon.
Karnataka's Tourism Minister, Priyank Kharge, says these companies were selected for their ideas and potential after they pitched for a tourism hackathon. "Tourism is an area where tech intervention would improve user experience and honestly we were surprised at the kind of ideas we got."
Smaran says that Tripdairy helps make travel fun by eliminating all friction points. “We are bringing onboard travel agents and hotels, and deploying chatbots. Our virtual personal travel assistant will handle travellers’ requests and work behind the scenes while they have a hassle-free experience,” he adds.
Tripdairy started as an Artificial Intelligence diary for your trips. Hence, the spelling (tripd-AI-ry). “We want to be not merely an assistant’s tool, but an Intelligent Personal Travel Concierge,” Smaran signs off.