Founded by Gaurav Kapahi and Nishchal Khetarpal, Delhi-based GoldSeat offers licensed, on-the-go offline entertainment that runs seamlessly without any data cost.
4G networks have made digital entertainment a breeze, but what happens when you’re travelling - on a bus, train, or plane? Often, the network dies, leaving you high and dry. No more, for Delhi-based GoldSeat makes entertainment woes a thing of the past.
The licensed, on-the-go offline entertainment application offers HD content that runs seamlessly without any data cost - even without connectivity!
The startup – founded in March 2017 – was born out of a personal pain point. Founder Gaurav Kapahi was on a flight from Bengaluru to Delhi when without any entertainment, boredom led him to ideate and he soon joined hands with Nishchal Khetarpal, who he had met in an IT services company, to launch GoldSeat.
The market opportunity is certainly huge. According to the Railway Ministry, 23 million people travel on Indian Railways every day. IATA data reveals that 11 million people travel by air every month, while KPMG says around 70 million travel on buses every day.
“We bridge the gap between demand and supply for entertainment and connectivity on the move. Our app provides licensed, HD content free-of-cost to the end passenger. Our device runs multiple networks in parallel to give a steady stream of connectivity while travelling on highways,” says Gaurav.
Gaurav earlier worked at HCL Technologies and several other companies in marketing roles. Nishchal had worked as a marketing/technology consultant in India and the US. He currently heads technology and marketing at GoldSeat while Gaurav, who heads sales and strategy, takes care of all operational activities.
Getting on the road
Sporadic connectivity on many Indian highways makes it tough to access any internet service. The other problem is that downloading takes plenty of time and exhausts data; the lack of connectivity leads to frequent disconnection while buffering.
“We focus on helping users stream authorised offline content, including movies and TV shows, while travelling,” he says. GoldSeat is a unique business – it is a B2C offering a B2B solution to bus operators. The startup may have rail and plane passengers in mind, but the target audience remains passengers in buses.
It began by doing trial runs in a few buses before they went commercial in January 2017. Their first customer was Himalayan Nomad KTC, a bus operator who offers one of the best services on the Delhi-Manali route. The owner, Anant Sud, had always been a supporter of providing best-in-class services to clients. He signed up with two buses, and in two months, GoldSeat was servicing more than 30 more buses.
The company currently caters to private bus operators, offering services across 300 buses in India, including Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (their only government client).
How does GoldSeat work?
The GoldSeat app works through the installation of a device in the buses; this provides free WiFi to users. The WiFi is a multi-band network is enabled with URA filtering technology; this filters the kind of content that can be accessed. The device promises maximum 4G/3G internet coverage, even in remote areas.
Passengers can download the GoldSeat app (3MB) from the Play Store/app store. They can then use their smart devices to connect to the server through WiFi and access high-speed internet on the go. The app lets passengers access all content, including movies and TV shows, without any downloading or buffering.
The company has associated with partners Reliance Entertainment and other production houses.
The founders invested Rs 50 lakh in the business in the beginning. GoldSeat raised $610,000 from a clutch of angel investors in its seed round in 2017; the founders aim to raise $3 million in 2019.
Gaurav does not shy away from talking about the difficulties they faced. “Funding is a crucial thing for every startup to build a core team and begin operations. Previously, we struggled to determine the core target group, as customers are scattered and the sector is unorganised in India. Apart from that, recognising their needs was a major barrier because they didn’t give much priority to licensed content,” he says.
The founders focused on helping bus operators understand how the solution could engage customers. Once that was done, the next challenge was to get their payments on time; recovery still continues to be a challenge.
GoldSeat works on a subscription model where the bus operator has to pay a fixed amount each month. No external cost is charged to the customers for the services. It is up to the bus fleet owner to decide whether to give access to digital entertainment as a free service or charge a small amount (included in the ticket price).
GoldSeat currently offers services to private players across Northern and Western regions, including Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Delhi, and cities in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Karnataka. It recently tied up with BNT Motors, the largest dealer for Volvo buses in India to provide offline entertainment and multi-band WiFi to passengers.
The founders say they have tapped about 1 percent of the overall market, and they plan is to cover at least 20 percent in the next 18 to 20 months. The idea is to increase their presence in the bus segment and add another 1,500 buses to their list. The founders aim to build on the revenues from the road segment, raise money, and enter other segments such as rail, metro, and air. There are no other players in the travel entertainment segment.
Ultimately, GoldSeat aims to be a one-stop shop for all entertainment, internet, security, and connectivity-related hardware needs.
V Ganapathy, of Axilor Ventures, says, “These businesses will have to go and capture the next 300 million internet customers, and it is a large business opportunity.”
GoldSeat seems to be on the money in this category.