If you’ve ever lost a passport or wallet at an international airport (or even a domestic one), you’d assume that the only way to get it back is to contact the airport lost and found services. It can take a few days before the items reach you, sending your carefully planned itinerary for a toss. This is the kind of pain-point Indian start-up Tag8 wants to address with its global lost and found recovery service. High-value, critical items such as passports, keys, wallets and luggage are all covered under the service. Once you purchase a tag from Tag8 through their online store, you are registered as a customer and will receive 24/7 support. A passport tag costs 999, a baggage tag costs 449, and a key tag costs 349.

While there are existing global recovery services in the same domain, such as the Canadian company ReturnMe, Norwegian MissingX, and British HomingPIN, Tag8 is the first Indian company venturing into this category of travel services. Most global lost-and-found recovery services, including Tag8, use the “Tracking via Unique Owner ID" method, explains Tag8 founding partner Sanjay Chakrabarti. A unique ID is created and attached to the valuable when a tag purchase is made and the customer registered in the database. Based on this ID, the finder is able to connect with either the owner directly or through the lost and found services company. When a finder—in most cases this is airport/ train station/ restaurant staff or a good samaritan—finds the lost item, the physical tag attached to the item lists the ways in which they can inform the company about the lost item. This can be done in various ways: calling or sending a WhatsApp message to a phone number on the tag; scanning a QR code on the tag using the finder’s phone; visiting the Tag8 website; or activating the near field communication (NFC) on the finder’s phone. At the same time, the owner can alert the company about the lost possession.

“Some of the older products in the market work on GSM-enabled GPS location tracking but those are getting phased out," says Alok Sheth, co-founder of Tag8. For the tracker on the tag to be enabled, it would have to be equipped with a SIM card and a battery pack, and while a SIM would incur charges (including, potentially, international roaming charges), most airlines have now banned products with inbuilt batteries, which makes the tag ineffective for checked-in baggage.

Tag8 has also built in a rewards system for finders to incentivize them to return lost items, and the rewards range from gift vouchers to Tag8 products for their personal use. “While the backend relies on technology, the service definitely has a strong human element," says Sheth.

The company is also building tech-based products that will make it easier to retrieve personal items like lost mobile phones based on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon technology. BLE-tagged valuables are detectable in a range of 10-50m from a mobile device. “These do have a battery, but with long shelf-life and no charging requirement, can be checked into the flight and can be attached to a wider set of valuables and not restricted to luggage. However, these are more expensive than the UID solutions and depends on pairing with a base mobile phone," explains Chakrabarti. Tag8 will be launching its set of BLE-based products early next year, in time for the India travel season, he adds.