How Rental Companies are Helping Travellers Travel Light

Akshay Bhatia, CEO & Founder, MutterflyA strong believer of shared economy, Akshay has gained robust experience in asset management and requities at Morgan Stanley

Devya, 25, a marketing analyst had booked her trip to scuba diving haven of India Lakshad weep Islands. A once in a lifetime experience, Devya wanted to capture every second of it. However, the latest waterproof camera (GoPro Hero 6) costs around $500 (Rs 35,000) and investing this kind of money on a camera she would require only once was a straight no. A few minutes of Google search and couple of clicks later, Devya rented the GoPro with all the mounts and batteries at just 1percent of the cost. The GoPro was delivered to her doorstep and Devya's reaction says it all.

Travel is a high investment sector both monetarily and emotionally. A decade ago, eight million Indians were travelling overseas. The number has spiked to 50 million as per a report by United Nations World Trade Organisation(UNWTO). While Indians today are not shying away from opening their wallets to travel a Yatra annual survey in 2017 showed that travellers want to spend more on exploring the destination and experiencing the local culture. Over the last few years, the OTA (Online Travel Agent) experience is being complemented by the dawn of the rental economy and travellers have instantly taken a liking to this behaviour of owning less and experiencing more. Cameras travel gear and transport are some of the key verticals rental companies are focussing on in order to help travellers go light on budget.

Today, travel is incomplete without highquality pictures and videos. While some use these to capture memories, for others it's all about social media presence. Whatever the objective, a DSLR camera has become an essential in every travel kit. It all seems great until you look at the cost of buying a DSLR. The basic DSLR starts at around INR 30,000 and add your basic accessories (lens, tripod, memory card) to it and you are looking at a minimum investment of INR 70,000. Even if you are ready to spend this kind of money thinking it would be a lifetime investment, you
will be sad to know that a newer model of the camera is just around the corner give or take six months.

Here's where rental companies are stepping in and offering cameras at one percent of the MRP. In other words, you can start renting a camera at less than the cost of a large pizza.

Gear Beyond gadgets, travel gear rentals have caught the fancy of adventure and outdoor lovers. From tents to sleeping bags to baby strollers rental companies are offering travel essentials starting at just INR 200 and making it a no brainer for travellers. Abhishek 28, stock market investor, had booked his trek to Roopkund and with every trek comes a long list of trekking requirements.

It's only a matter of time where we see a shift in buying behaviour and renting becomes the natural behaviour for aspirational travellers

"I scrolled through the list and when I roughly calculated the cost of buying these, they came up to INR 40,000, which was four times the cost of the trek itself. There was no way I was going to spend this kind of money. I instantly resorted to alternatives and was glad to find a range of trekking gear starting at Rs 200 per day. Well, that is cost of a starbucks coffee it was a no brainer and I spent around INR 2,000 on the entire trekking kit for a 10 day trek and ended up saving INR 48,000."

While Uber has become a go to for travellers looking for a personal driver on demand, there are a group of self drive companies (ZoomCar, Justride, Drivezy) that are allowing you to rent your favourite car from, or to your holiday destination. So if you are going for a weekend trip or landing in a new city, just rent a car of your choice and save yourself from the hassle of waiting for a cab. With flexible renting options starting at INR 54/hour coupled with dropoffs at dedicated centres, travellers are preferring to rent cars and charter their own travel route thereby saving the cab fare and waiting time.

Rental companies are not only targeting outbound travellers but also inbound travellers via some unique partnerships. For instance Backpacker Panda, one of the leading backpacking chains in the country, has partnered with us to deliver utility and unique products to their incoming guests. Backpackers checking into the hostel have a menu card of exciting products ranging from cameras to gaming consoles to iPads that they can rent for the duration they are in the city.

Today, travel is no longer confined to the rich the middle class has jumped into it as well. While travellers today are spending more, they are more rational and aware in their consumption pattern. Rental companies are taking this opportunity by providing value and convenience. By partnering with OTA providers, they are leveraging on network effects and capturing customers where intent to rent is high. Not just India but globally rental companies are catching the attention of travellers and becoming a hot sector for investors. For instance, Germany based Grover has raised over $68 million earlier this year with the aim of making premium products accessible to travellers. It's only a matter of time where we see a shift in buying behaviour and renting becomes the natural behaviour for aspirational travellers.