Over the years, buses have continued to be one of the most preferred modes of transportation across the country. While the cost of travel has remained low, quality of bus travel has also improved significantly. Conventionally, entertainment on buses mean playing movies in the regional language, where the vehicle is plying, thus limiting the choice for passengers. However, this scenario is losing relevance since passengers have varied choices and prefers to view and consume entertainment of their personal liking. This reinforces the importance of offline entertainment. GoldSeat is a start-up that focusses on offering such licenced offline content to passengers. Auto Tech Review caught up with its founders Gaurav Kapahi, CEO (Above) and Nishchal Khetarpal, CTO (Below) to learn more.
GoldSeat offers its services to passengers free of cost at present, while charging operators for the same. The company’s offerings are not only limited to offline entertainment, but also provides a multi-network Wi-Fi connection to operators. This provides passengers with the option of shuffling between various networks, thus providing connectivity coverage almost throughout the length of the journey. This helps the bus connect to the internet, making it a connected bus, Khetarpal said. This enables the possibility of working on a host of IoT-based applications, since the bus is more connected, he explained.
There is a huge gap in demand and supply of varied offline entertainment in the country at present, said Kapahi. There is a requirement for content, and this is demanded free of cost, with the additional factor that there is no buffering involved while viewing the same. However, every single second of content needs to be paid for by someone as it is expensive, he added. On an average, internet connectivity is available only 40 % of the time when travelling on highways, of which only about 10 % is of 4G quality. This limits the use of content that needs to be streamed using internet, and offers scope for more offline entertainment content.
There are a few suppliers of HD, off-line licenced content, and even fewer that offer premium content that would otherwise require expensive membership fees, said Khetarpal. Overall consumption of content on-the-go is on the rise, which is a positive for a company like GoldSeat, added Kapahi. He also said the availability of offline content is a major factor that passengers look for while taking a decision to pick a certain bus operator. Kapahi explained that ticket prices are based on the amenities supplied during travel, for which passengers are keen on factors like connectivity and entertainment. These are good times for travel-on-the-go entertainment, he said.
Content makers are running losses due to the distribution and use of content in a pirated manner, observed Khetarpal. He said this is addressed by the consumption of licenced content, giving credit to parties who put in their efforts in the creation of said content. In turn, operators benefit from providing premium content, in terms of increased customer appeal for their companies. In terms of choice preferred, Kapahi said the consumption of regional content is on an all-time high, with production houses also making such regional content more than ever before. A lot of investments are being made on a local level for creation of quality local content. In addition to this, content is being shaped and created especially for specific regions. From GoldSeat’s perspective, there is a need to specify content types since it is stored in the bus, but can be reshaped for specific requirements. Therefore, this also provides another benefit to operators, since they can offer different types of entertainment for different regions their buses ply on.
High level of smartphone penetration has led to increased demand for premium content. A number of these users aspire to own an entertainment content account, but are not willing to pay for their high costs. This is resulting in a healthy mix of urban and rural users, with users from Tier II and Tier III towns consuming higher amounts of content. The content is also easy to be offered to low-cost operators, since the cost to the operator offering GoldSeat entertainment services is ` 5-6 per passenger, Khetarpal said.
Khetarpal said GoldSeat’s entire offering consists of a mix of solutions already designed by technology companies, along with some levels of customised development. Most of the software has been developed by the company, in addition to the multi-network balancing devices that have been custom-built. The company is adding more technologies into play as it gets bigger and caters to more operators. It will also create its own indigenous hardware and software to integrate the solutions.
The demand for premium offline entertainment from bus passengers is definitely growing, and is expected to grow further due to the main issue of loss in connectivity and network. The growth of such content will not only prove beneficial to companies like GoldSeat , but also addresses passenger entertainment needs, as well as providing operators with a chance to enhance their business.
TEXT: Naveen Arul