Bharat Petroleum plans to enter travel business with Happy Roads start-up
Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd (BPCL), India’s second largest oil marketing company, is planning to enter the travel business with its personal travel offering, Happy Roads, which would help travellers plan and execute road trips, two senior company officials said.
BPCL is looking to launch the app in about two months, the executives said, requesting anonymity. Through the app, the state-run company hopes to draw more millennials, seen as being attuned to travelling by road, into its customer base.
“We are doing something very different which no one has done. We have tied up with some of the best content creators on travel for Happy Roads. Our app will also give real time updates on travel destinations to our customers,” said the first senior official from BPCL quoted above.
A user planning a trip on Happy Roads will be able to select travel options from wildlife, adventure, nature, offbeat, romantic, leisure, religious and heritage. The app will also help users explore nearby destinations and plan a trip. In this segment, Happy Roads would compete with existing players such as TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet India. BPCL has tied up with Bharti Axa general insurance and PolicyBazar for providing travel insurance and car rental company Zoom Car, for cars and drivers. Also on board is 3M, a car wash and wax solutions provider.
“If someone is using our application, they would be updated on the services provided and would be using our facilities on the network they seek to travel. This will help us connect to customers, give a boost to our loyalty programs and help us acquire new customers,” added the first BPCL official. BPCL is currently testing the app for user acceptance and friendliness. Post March, it will begin digital marketing for the app. To spread the word further, it will rely on its fuel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) users. BPCL has 50 million LPG customers, of which 24 million are urban.
“We see this start-up with a lot of potential as no one is giving you customized services like curated content, car services, trip advisory and insurance in one package,” said the second BPCL official. “Currently we are planning to throw open the app for users in the South. And depending on the feedback, we would take it forward to other zones. We are trying to also work on details wherein users can use the app within cities for navigation.”
The app began a pilot run on the Bengaluru-Coorg road this month. BPCL’s fuel retail outlets on the highways have been spruced up and beautified for users, the two officials said.
“The app will notify the traveler about the near-by bank ATMs, restrooms, pharmacies or restaurants. We are also upgrading our retail outlets that we would link on these roads,” the second BPCL official added.
BPCL is in also talks with hotels and restaurants en route various destinations to expand the ecosystem and web of services that it has created for Happy Roads, the officials said.
“With fuel deregulation in place, competition in the market is obvious. Though we don’t anticipate private fuel retailers like Reliance Industries, Essar Oil and Shell acquiring over 10% of the market share, we see the oil marketing companies fighting among themselves to expand and retain their market shares. Initiatives like Happy Roads clearly reflect the market condition. However, it remains to be seen how much it will help BPCL in customer retention,” said an assistant vice-president with a domestic brokerage requesting anonymity.