Would you like to come to your office?
Karanpal Singh, founder of Hunch Ventures.
In an interview with mint, Singh explains how travel in and around cities is about to change. Edited excerpts:
Why did you set up an urban air mobility service?
The advantage of this mode of travel lies in the fact of traveling with a small group of confidence and saving time. In December 2019, when U2’s concert was held in the suburbs of Mumbai, we transported the attendees to the venue in the heart of the city. On the road or via the local train, it’s a journey of about two hours. By helicopter, the journey time has been reduced to 10 minutes. In Maharashtra, we try to solve the 7 hour journey from Mumbai to Shirdi and reduce it to 45 minutes. In Pune, we are experimenting with an intercity transport system. For destinations like Shillim, Lonavala and Amby Valley, we want to introduce it as a daily or leisure service. In Karnataka we are trying to solve the problem of the airport as it is located far from the city and the road traffic could be a nightmare.
What about infrastructure for urban air mobility?
We don’t need to invest in large plots, like an airport. We need much smaller areas to create vertiports for takeoff and landing. In Mumbai, we have a vertiport in Mahalakshmi and another in Juhu. In Shirdi, we have created a vertiport near the shrine for easy access. We can create these vertiports wherever we want.
How has the pandemic helped you?
In general, the pandemic has helped the travel industry. People use a service like ours because they can travel in small groups and avoid crowded airports. We have seen an increase in demand. For example, we had an average occupancy of 50 to 55 percent before the pandemic and in March we were operating at almost 75 to 80 percent. With work from home becoming the norm, we have seen Mumbaikars working out of town and nearby destinations like Amby Valley. We are now running programs to make it easy for people to travel and work elsewhere. Imagine a scenario where you can go to the office once or twice a week and then easily fly away, without the hassle of road traffic and tolls, to be in the middle of nature with a laptop in hand. This is what we want to offer.
How much do you have to pay to book your flights?
The minimum fare for a seat is ₹5000 when booking a charter costs ₹1.9 lakhs. So, for Amby Valley, the price is around ₹5000 and Pune is around Rs. 11000. We are trying to expand our fleet with partners like Belle and Airbus. It will lower our prices.
Your services helped the medical fraternity last year. Do you want to explore the transportation services in this area?
Going forward, this will be a fundamental service for us as we continue to expand into new markets. Emergency medical assistance and access to remote areas are two of the very real problems that air mobility solves.
Also read: What do travelers want during a pandemic? Luxury