MIT Sloan Alumni Gautam’s AudioCompass turns your Phone into a Personal Tour Guide
Ever visited a historic monument, and could not understand what the tourist guide was talking in a rush? We all have times when we wonder at the places we visit,and wish to know more. But, the boards at tourist sites give very little information, usually outdated. AudioCompass is mobile based travel guide, that helps travelers explore India through stories of cultural and historical sites, museums and monuments. The startup is now official audio tour partner for Government of India and several other UNESCO sites. With the travel guide app, travelers don’t have to rely on Tourists guides, books. Tourist can have access to the audio based travel guide 24/7.
Story Behind the start-up
We ask Gautam Shewakramani, MIT Sloan alumnus who left a lucrative corporate career to start up in 2011 on the reason to venture in this unusual space.
I started AudioCompass due to a personal pain points. While I traveled in the past, I used guidebooks, human guides, and wikipedia pages to learn more about my destination. I experienced 500 years of history condensed into 5 lines, I whizzed past sights and spent time in tourist shops, because my guide needed to get to his next assignment. I read history off my smartphone screen when I should have been looking around. I felt that none of these existing options allowed me to absorb the stories of the destination in a convenient manner, cost effective manner.
The AudioCompass story began by being selected as the official audio guide provider by the Archeological Survey of India at the TajMahal in 2011.
As the official audio guide provider of the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, Gautam had the opportunity to directly interact with Indian and foreign visitors who were renting the startup’s audio guide devices. They realized through conversations with travelers that the product was empowering travelers to these monuments and decided to investigate the market further. Team saw that there are 200+ million domestic trips taken every year in India for tourism purposes [excluding family visits and pilgrimages] and the top 30 cities and monuments get in excess of 40 million visitors per year, and this is just for domestic travel alone. They realized the size and scope of this market early on and decided that the best way to target it would be through distributing high quality content through mobile apps, hence came up with AudioCompass.
AudioCompass team consists of Gautam Shewakramani, Founder & CEO, Pariket Doshi, CMO and Chhavi Sachdev, Creative Head. Gautam previously worked as a strategy consultant at Deloitte Consulting and at Deutsche Asset Management. He received his MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. Pariket takes care of brand building, social media, user experience, product evolution, community building and design at AudioCompass. Chhavi has previously worked as a radio journalist for radio stations in Europe and America, and commissions writers for the tours, edits the scripts to make the stories come alive, and then works with studios, voice over artists and sound engineers to soundscape them, to bring the stories of India to your ear.
Design Principles and Marketing Strategies of the AudioCompass App
The Android and iOS app were launched in early March 2014. It features 400+ attractions spread out over 17 destinations, and the team is adding new destinations and points of interest every month. “The initial traction and feedback has been fantastic. People are loving how user friendly the app is, and are enjoying the content.We feel that the biggest discovery of our app will be through word of mouth and social media, and our efforts are focused on these channels”, says Gautam.
For any app, design is one of the main deciding factors of its adoption. We ask Gautam on the design principles behind the app. ” The main design principle of our app is that our apps are designed keeping in mind the “last mile of travel”, i.e. our app will be used while our user is traveling. It’s because of this that a large part of our content is audio based (so that you can have your hands free and look around rather than stare at your screen).”, says Gautam.
AudioCompass has been recognized by the Indian Government’s Ministry of Tourism as the official audio tour of the global Incredible India campaign. As a result of this, www.incredibleindia.org has a prominent link taking visitors to AudioCompass on their home page. This is quite an achievement on it’s own.
Competitors for them in this space are Guiddoo. Prominent differentiating factor of Audio compass is the quality content and stories. Content and usage is designed for the “last mile” of travel, when people have left their hotels and hostels and are exploring their destinations. Company is not looking to be a trip planner, guidebook, or anything else.
AudioCompass has raised $400K funds from Blume Ventures and Urrshila Kerkar in Feb this year. Urrshila is also travel advisor to AudioCompass board. “The fund raise experience was a long process – we had been engaging with our investors over the past year as we refined our business model and business plan”, says Gautam. Funds raised would be used to expand destination coverage, strengthen our product development and fund new marketing initiatives.
AudioCompass will continue iterating and improving on the product experience, but for now the core focus is on marketing and getting a loyal and engaged user base, and increasing destination coverage across India.
“I think the biggest challenge facing us, as well as other start up app developers is related to app discoverability. Finding a cost effective way to drive initial user engagement and downloads is something that we are still experimenting with”, signs off Gautam.
TTP’s take on AudioCompass
Gautam has identified a pressing need in the Tourism domain. The recognition by the Indian Government’s Ministry of Tourism as the official audio tour of the global Incredible India campaign, speaks a lot about the marketing skills of the team, backed by an excellent app. Initial Seed fund is also an acceptance of the novel idea, and we think AudioCompass has the potential to disrupt this space. Here’s wishing AudioCompass team the very best!