in 2003, Basecamp sells various travel equipment and outdoor sports
accessories. The Mumbai-based retailer, that runs a chain of 15 exclusive
stores all over India, houses an array of international brands such as
Victorinox, Maglite, Laken, Go Travel, Muela, Katadyn, Trim, Outsider and
Wenger. Recently, the company has forayed into the auto homes segment by tying
up with German firms Hymer and Dethleffs to import their products from Germany.
In order to set up sales and other related infrastructure for the foray into
the caravan segment, the company has already invested around Rs. 10 crore.
Basecamp has also tied up with Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (BPCL) and
Haryana Tourism Corporation to promote the caravan segment in India.
When did the idea of launching Caravans cross your
mind? And what are your primary
objectives for launching it?
Well, the idea of launching caravans came to us 5 years
back. Basecamp is a retail concept store that actually provides the travellers
all the kind of equipment that they require. We are selling our products under
the brands of Victorinox, Maglite, etc. When the caravans were launched in the
international markets, they started off with the concept wherein the customer
is a self-reliant person. It’s more like a luxury camping.It was the next step
for us to look into and that’s how we got into this business. Our primary
objective was to give the consumer a new option in addition to sleeping bags,
backpacks and other products that we were selling. Now we have a complete house
(caravan) which is just behind your car. It has a bathroom, bed, refrigerator,
wash basin, cooking hob, etc. It is also air-conditioned and its maintenance
involves only normal wear and tear.
You have launched caravans in collaboration with a
couple of foreign firms i.e. Hymer and Dethleffs. Could you differentiate the
products sold by them? What is your target customer and what kind of numbers
are you looking at? Will you be also looking at supplying to the corporates?
would say if you compare Hymer and Dethleffs, the former is an upscale version
equipped with better quality equipment with the latter being a tad more
economical. We would be really happy if we could sell 600 units in a year. But
it will take a couple of years for us to achieve that milestone. Our target
customers are young travellers who are adventurous with a
do-it-yourself-attitude and would also like to explore the countryside. And
yes, we are definitely looking to supply the caravans to the corporates, who
will account for a major chunk of the numbers. India is a land where we have
all kinds of sight-seeing locations in the country whether they are mountains,
rivers, forests or beaches which is very rare in any part of the world. There
are many corporates who are getting into the construction business at places
where the infrastructure is not fully developed. They would require a place
where they can take their home along. A company’s engineers and other support
staff can live in the caravans in a very decent atmosphere and get their
official work done simultaneously.
What made you choose to launch German products and
not the American ones? Is it because of the tax structure or it has to more to
do with consumer preferences?
While the American models run on 110 watts, the European
ones utilises 220 watts. The entire electrical systems need to be changed in
the American models in order to sell it in India.
You have gone on record saying that Basecamp does
not want to get into rental services. Could you please cite reasons for the
rental business, which is similar to running hotels, is totally different
vis-à-vis selling. We are into the hardware aspects of a business. Even though
we will be providing after-sales services to the car rental firms, we will
never get into the software aspects of a business.
You have already established 15 stores in the
country to sell your existing travel-related products. But for caravans, don’t
you think you now need to establish a chain of mega marts to retail them to
your clients? And what would be the waiting period of these products?
it’s not a car but a 9-foot tall product, we would require a giant-size
building. We tried to scout for such buildings but couldn’t finalise any such
place. And looking at the real estate costs in key metro locations like Delhi,
Mumbai, Bangalore, etc., it’s very expensive to be in the heart of the
city. Once this concept gets familiar at
a certain level, and then we may look at setting up mega marts on the outskirts
of all the metro cities. When they become more aware of the products, they
wouldn’t mind driving all the way to visit our outlets. Currently, the waiting
period of these models would be anywhere between 45-90 days, depending on the
season that the order is booked and also on the kind of customisation that our
customers would be looking for.
So can these be hitched to any car and is a normal
toe hook sufficient for it? And would you recommend the caravans to be towed by
wouldn’t say any car, but it can be hitched to any vehicle powered by a 1500cc
petrol or diesel engine. That’s because such vehicles will have the adequate
torque to pull the caravans. Since these hooks are very strong they will not
get detached from the vehicle and so far we haven’t heard of any such incident.
The driver has to be very careful with deep potholes and other roadblocks. As
we haven’t yet tested these products with a CNG-driven vehicle, I can’t really
comment about its efficiency.
At Rs. 22L+ taxes and Rs. 16L + taxes for the Hymer
and the Dethleffs respectively, the caravans seem slightly unaffordable. So are
you exploring the feasibility of building these products here?
we are exploring the feasibility of building these products here in order to
reduce the price tag. It will take some time as we have not finalised anything
as far as the facility is concerned.
Unlike the West, India does not have infrastructure
like trailer parks and camping sites. Then what are you counting on?
we have announced at a press conference recently, we have tied up with BPCL who
are providing us parking spaces at their petrol pumps. We have also tied up
with Haryana Tourism wherein they will be offering the ‘Midway Yatri Niwas’
wherein they would provide parking facilities at its various compounds to our
customers. We have made similar presentation to other State Tourism
Corporations (STCs). Most of these STCs, which have huge parking lots on their
highways, can earn some rental income out of it. And as the whole concept takes
a bigger shape, I am sure there will be people who would like to build caravan
parks on highways.
Will you only be targeting the northern part of
India in the initial phase?
that’s right. We are initially catering to the northern part of the country. We
have also received some queries from the Western and Southern part of India.
Going forward, we will be targeting these geographies too.
And are you looking to tie-up with OEMs? And are
you open to the idea of selling motored caravans?
have all such possibilities in mind.
It’s too early to share anything on these fronts. We want to see how the
market accepts our products and how receptive they are to the idea of ‘Caravanning’
and also how adventurous our consumer is.
What is your vision when it comes to selling your
vision is not only to sell the caravans, but also to promote the concept of
‘Caravanning’ in the country. A few
years back, SUVs were not that popular. But now, every OEM is jumping on that
bandwagon as people are now looking to take their vehicle out of the city for
some sightseeing to some rough terrains. That is very similar to the caravan
gaining prominence in the next few years. I would like to see an increasing
number of people taking their caravans with them to faraway places.