From providing offline audio guide books at tourist attractions to offering one of a kind personal tour guide for every traveller, AudioCompass has covered many miles since its inception in 2011. The app now offers audio guides for almost all major destinations in India covering the points of interest thoroughly. We got in touch with Gautam Shewakramani, the brain behind AudioCompass to know more about the journey and the road ahead.
Q&A with Gautam below
TravHQ- Tell us a bit about yourself and what made you start AudioCompass.
Gautam- I was born and brought up in Mumbai – I did my undergrad in Computer Science and Film (double major), worked for a little while in management consulting in NYC, and then went on to business school at MIT Sloan in Boston. After business school I moved back home to Mumbai where I spent some time actively working with and seed investing in start-ups. It was around that time that I founded AudioCompass. These days, when I’m not working on AudioCompass I am spending time with my wife and 4 month old daughter, planning my next scuba diving vacation, or tinkering with my Raspberry Pi [sometimes all 3 at the same time]
Like many startups, AudioCompass came from a personal pain point. I found plenty of resources to inspire me to travel, even more to help me book and plan my travel.. but none of them made it easy or more convenient to get information while I was at my destination. I used poor substitutes, like unofficial touts, who condensed 500 years of history in 5 lines and were more interested in taking me shopping than sharing accurate information. I found myself whizzing past sights without learning about them and spending time in tourist shops… I read history off my iPhone screen when I should have been looking around. I felt was that none of these options allowed me to hear and absorb the stories of the destination in a convenient, cost effective manner. With that as inspiration, I started AudioCompass in 2011.
TravHQ- How has the journey of AudioCompass been so far?
Gautam- We started off as a physical audio guide business – in partnership with the Archaeological Survey of India. They made us the official audio guide provider at some of India’s most important UNESCO sites, such as the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort. We learnt a lot about the business during those first few years and then decided to focus on mobile distribution of our content. We are the first and only company to directly tackle this major problem area of travel (especially in India), i.e. ensuring a high quality in-travel experience. Our flagship product, the AudioCompass mobile app, makes your sightseeing experience hassle free. It puts a personal tour guide on your phone, containing 1000+ audio clips narrated by local, expert guides. Users of our product get a one-of-a-kind experience, with story based, informative and accurate content.
TravHQ- Where do most of your users come from?
Gautam- Our users are from all over the world, especially with our recent expansion to international destinations. However, given that at this point a bulk of our destination coverage is in India we do majority of our users being domestic travelers. The age group of our users is very wide – we target travelers from age 20 – 50.
TravHQ- What sources do you use to compile data for the guides?
Gautam- Our product is designed to be like a local friend, while you are traveling. So in addition to facts and information about places, we focus on telling travelers stories that bring their experience alive. Unfortunately, many of the most amazing stories haven’t been documented… so as a result our creative team works with several sources to compile data – we start with secondary research online and in libraries to uncover facts and stories, and we also send our writers to visit destinations and speak to locals.
TravHQ- While the number of solo travellers is going up, a large number of travellers still travel with family or for business. The ‘explorers’ tag continues to be in minority. So how do you plan to expand the market here?
Gautam- Actually, we are seeing fantastic usage among family travelers and first time travelers as well. Our product is included in holiday packages sold by MakeMyTrip, Thomas Cook, Cox & Kings, and Yatra.com – and we are seeing amazing traction from travelers coming through these channels. “Explorers” are of course, heavy users, and they’re the ones that discover us organically. We’re working on features that will appeal to both types of travelers.
TravHQ- You have got guide books for attractions like museums as well. Do you see technologies like low energy Bluetooth / beacons being used sometime in future for indoor navigation data? Do you think something like that can further improve the user experience?
Gautam- Absolutely, we’re already working on integrating iBeacons with one of our on-site partners. More on this in the future!
TravHQ- Do you plan to add foreign destinations as well?
Gautam- We already have! We are the official app for Singapore Tourism and have over 8 tours in Singapore with about 100 points of interest. We’ve got a number of other international destinations in the works, including Thailand, Oman, etc.
TravHQ- Apart from adding new destinations, what are your plans for future? Do you plan to add more features that can be monetized?
Gautam- At this point, we are focused on adding useful features and increasing user engagement in our app- not on adding additional monetization. We already have a strong monetization strategy and revenue model, and don’t see any major changes to it over the next 12-24 months.
The way ahead looks really promising for Audio Compass. iBeacons will surely emerge as a popular technology in near future and apps like Audio Compass will make the best use of this technology. We will keep you posted about the same. You can connect with Gautam here: LinkedIn Twitter