Road trips are fun: You choose your own music, fellow travellers (or none), and snacks as you cruise on the highway. What’s not to love? But then, someone has to go to the loo, is hungry, or has motion sickness. You have no option but to keep driving, hoping you find a pit stop soon. That’s where ‘Highway Delite’, a mobile application comes in.
The brainchild of Bengaluru-based travel buff Rajesh Ghatanatti, the app provides information on the nearest petrol pumps, restaurants, lodges, hotels, emergency contacts and even clean toilets on popular travel routes mostly in the five southern states. Up north, only the Indore-Ujjain and Delhi-Agra roads have been covered so far, and temporary establishments aren’t on the app.
Rajesh on one of his trips
“I come from a defence background, so I’ve always liked to travel,” says the 33-year-old former consultant. The problems he faced on frequent work trips combined with his love for travelling led him develop Highway Delite.
He quit his job last March to concentrate completely on his venture. Rajesh extensively travelled along NH4 and NH7 which connect Mysuru, Belagavi and Hyderabad to make his preliminary assessments.
Clean washrooms, safety concerns, and misleading signboards were the most common concerns for people on the road, Rajesh says.
Rajesh has assessed toilets at all restaurants and petrol pumps on his travels. “The app lists all the petrol pumps with toilets, but only the ones in good condition are given ‘verified’ status,” he says. Having a toilet is a mandatory for a restaurant to be listed on the app.
Witnessing two accidents during his own research travel trips along the Madikeri-Mysuru route prompted Rajesh to include emergency numbers. “It was Dusshera. A lot of youngsters were travelling that day and some of them were even inebriated. When the accidents happened, I realized I had the numbers of the nearest police station on the app,” says Rajesh, who then promptly informed the police about the incident.
Emergency contacts on the app include toll gate managers, hospitals and police stations in the nearest towns, and highway patrol helpline numbers. Each of these numbers, he says were verified.
Rajesh has all of two employees for data entry, and invites college students with a valid driver’s license to intern with the company, which was incorporated in May 2015. An incubation offer from IIM-Bangalore in July helped start the process of app development. By November, with data from 2500 kilometers collated, the app was out.
Their database has grown since with more than 5000 kilometers of travel information available on the app.
While the app itself is free (and will remain so, he promises), Rajesh is looking to turn the venture into a for-profit model. “But most of our future revenue will come from restaurants and hotels which will be featured on the app,” he explains.
Does that mean that they can buy their way into the app? “No. Apart from the washroom availability criteria, we will carry out the same checks to ensure they are secure places which provide what they promise,” Rajesh says.
Although the venture is quite new and has not made any revenue so far, Rajesh is optimistic. “The reception has been largely good so far. There’s also a shift where people are going for shorter, more frequent trips rather than one long vacation. Road trips are ideal for this – they are economical and you don’t have to depend on anyone but yourself and your company.”