Travel & Mobility start-ups to watch for in 2018!

What are some of the promising startups in travel and mobility (transportation) space to watch in 2018? I've compiled a list of my personal picks. Let me know if you agree or if you've some other startups in mind which you think should be included here.

This list may not be exhaustive. I've picked below 10 from a list of about 30 shortlisted startups I've heard about or experienced to some extent. There could be more better startups that didn't come to my attention. This list is not to be considered as some sort of ranking or list of best startups ever, just my personal picks.

1. Pickyourtrail
This Chennai based firm aims to make holiday experience better-a more flexible way of planning your day to day itinerary, easy options to customize, experts on standby to make more informed decisions etc. I haven't had the opportunity to use their services yet, as my travel style is to manage as much as possible on my own without buying pre-defined packages but if I ever have to take a package tour I will check with them first.

I did give some feedback to Pickyourtrail team sometime back and team responded positively. Will be looking forward to features like using public transport, land package only and many more.
In 2018 curious to see their growth and how their offerings continue to be personalized and better priced compared to dozens of other companies offering similar services. Major challenge will be to maintain the level of personal attention with growing volumes.

https://pickyourtrail.com/


2. North East Explorers- 
Started by Rajiv Verma who quit his corporate career in Bengaluru to be closer to mountains and nature in North East India. North East Explorer helps you with your itinerary and travel planning to exlore the 7 sister states in the North Eastern India. Almost everyone in my friends list, including myself, trouble Rajiv for inputs and suggestions while visiting North East. He hasn’t taken his travel enablement business to a commercial scale- is keeping it fairly low profile and running on word of mouth publicity. When I interacted with him I realized that he has no intention to grow by volume and make money from mass tourism. He has a strong desire to preserve sanctity of various pristine places, he makes an effort to explain how life is different in the remote areas- various luxuries deemed standard elsewhere may not be easily available when you visit remote areas in north east- room with attached bathroom for example and enables his guests to make the best of their visits- mistakes to avoid, which areas are best to visit during specific times of the year, focus on local festivals, culture etc. I am wishing more success for him and North East Explorer in 2018
http://northeastexplorers.in/

3. ScoutMyTrip
Scoutmytrip is a tool to make your road trips easier to plan and execute.  You can create a trip one way or two way, then add where you plan to stay, eat, fuel up etc and gives all places of interest enroute, so that you can select those that interest you. You can either create your own trip or refer to any of the existing trips that suit your interest and chose to adapt/customize.

They did lots of promotional activities in 2017- highest bloggers meet, WayanadOnWheels and many more. I was part of the Wayanad Biker trip in August this year. In 2018 will look forward to mobile apps, more friendly features while drafting roadtrips (example being able to define a base and visit multiple destinations from that base and so on) and more.
When I asked for my facebook friends to refer travel startups they think cool, ScoutMyTrip got maximum mentions

http://www.goroadtrip.com/ is another startup offering similar services, but with some fundamental differences. ScoutMyTrip is still focused on building quality content and platform while many rivals are quick to jump to monetization part, expecting visitors to book or buy something.

Website; https://scoutmytrip.com/

4. Travelibro
Taking photo on a bulky DSLR, waiting till we return home to process and upload them is so 1990s. Today’s travellers prefer to do everything on the phone-photos, videos, editing, blogs etc and while on the move. Startups like Travelibro are trying to capitalize on this trend, by providing an app that makes it lot easier to make interesting stories out of your captures.

Travelibro has been in operations for a few years now, in 2017 they've revamped mobile app with lots of features. I do have a profile there with many trip itineraries, though I should use them more in 2018.
5 Royal Brothers car n bike rentals
Included here due to their rapid growth and for being a self funded startup. The 3 year old company got popular for launching bike rentals in several tier 2 and tier 3 cities where such a service was just not available. Royal Brothers also started car rental recently. Their rentals are a bit higher compared to competition like ONN Bikes and some of the terms like accident damage liability for customers which goes up to 25% of car's value worries me, but I believe they will evolve.
In 2018, I will be keen to see the following
  • If Royal Brothers can grow rapidly enough to grab top 3 to top 5 position in cities they operate
  • If Royal Brothers can pose serious challenge to industry leaders Zoomcar and Myles
  • If Royal Brothers will stick to their current terms & conditions w.r.t customer’s accident liability (which stands at 25% of car’s value in worst case scenarios, which means a liability of 2 to 40 lakhs when you rent a car from them if car suffers major damage- this is an unnecessary risk as a customer. With rival Zoomcar, worst case scenario liability is limited to INR 10000) or will make it more user friendly by opting for better insurance coverage.
  • Royal Brothers seem to be working on a investment model similar to Zoomcar ZAP and Myles Angels. Let us see how this develops in 2018- best wishes to them
6 TripTogether
The idea of this website seems very good, but execution- I doubt. When you are heading to particular city, if you can find other like-minded people, you can team up and save a bit on various expenses- such as taxi rental etc. Also you can make friends/help each other during the trip, making it more fun. Members can also opt to host visitors coming to their city etc.

Idea is great, but the site seems to have fair amount of female profiles for most cities and the intentions do not seem clear- are they fake profiles etc. If the TripTogether team can prevent abuse of the platform and eliminate fake profiles/non-genuine travelers then it will be great.

7 Wandertrails
Wandertrails focuses on experiential stays, with listing of various properties with something unique about them. Current concern is not having an ability to offer instant confirmation. One of my friends tried booking here based on my recommendation, but even after 48 hours didn’t get a response/ confirmation, so he ended up booking through some other site. Read about one of the Wandertrails property in Wayanad where we stayed this year.
8 Rentmystay
This Bengaluru based service makes it easier to find long term accommodations when you’re visiting the city. While most startups focused on hotels, homestays and such tourist business, rent my stay focuses a lot on business and leisure travelers looking for an accommodation for few months or anyone looking for short term to long term rental accommodations.

Right now focus seem to be in South India. In 2018 wishing them luck to expand pan India.

9. Withlocals
Not an India based startup. Withlocals aims to connect travellers with local people, who can conduct a guided tour or offer various local experiences. They have good presence in Bangkok, Vietnam and many countries, including some offerings in Kochi, Mumbai etc. When you visit a country, instead of buying conventional mass market tour packages, you can book some activity with hosts in withlocals, who promise a more unique, customized experience. While the service options seem great, pricing at the moment is on a bit higher side (For example, would you pay 22 Euros (INR 1700) for a traditional Kerala style meal?) Even for Vietnam when I compared their prices with other travel agents, the price was on higher side (one day Halong bay Cruise at 375 Euros compared to 55 USD what I paid for a group tour). Of course there may be people willing to pay a premium for such services- if the quality of service satisfies the customers then price won’t be a concern. I shouldn’t pass judgment without experiencing Withlocal's service- may be the personalized experience will be worth the price. The concept is great, potential is huge, so let us see  how Withlocals grows in 2018.

10. Ather Energy
While there are a few electic cars and bikes in India, they haven’t posed any thread to traditional petrol/diesel based vehicles and haven’t managed to gain any noteworthy market share. This is due to various reasons- very high cost of purchase compared to a petrol/diesel vehicle, poor range (Reva gets about 100kms range, needs frequent charging), high maintenance cost due to batteries that are expensive and need replacement every few years and non availability of charging infrastructure. Over past few years, one start up, based in Bengaluru and run by IIT students is promising to offer a revolutionary two wheeler that is cheaper, more reliable and smart. Ather Energy is that promising startup. Over past few years I’ve seen them display a prototype, I was approached a few times for an interview request but I was bit sceptical as the model was not ready to be ridden. Their claims were only in concept stage and not materialized into real scooter that one I can ride and feel. But may be I was wrong. They did get 200 crores+ investment from Hero group, a million USD from Flipkart founders etc. So we can assume these investors have done the necessary due diligence and there’s some real potential in Ather Energy waiting to be exploited. They claim to make every component in house, which is probably adding to timeline. A quicker way would have been to focus on core component- battery and motor, while outsourcing rest of the standard stuff- frame, seats, body, wheels, suspension etc so that bikes can be released to market faster. But again, not my authority to judge. I will wait n watch.

Competition is already looming close. Another BLR based company Emflux motors is working to produce an all electric high performance motorbike [Details]

In 2018 I am hoping they should be able to wrap up R&D, finalize design work and enter pre-production mode, with few working fully functional units out by end of 2018 for investors, media and prospective customers to experience the bike in action and may be start accepting orders for delivery in mid 2019. Will they? Let us see.

Also I've noticed many travel startups that once had good content now gone fully commercial, trying to sell all kinds of tour packages. Most of them try to lure unsuspecting customers with ads like "Jordan under 40K" or "Australia under 60k" only to reveal later that air ticket is not included in this price.

Do you have a favorite start up whose services you've availed or are following closely? Do let me know.
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