Travel

The walking GPS for bikers

H V kumar   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Three decades ago when biking and travelling was rare and places like Valparai, Munnar or Ladakh remained undiscovered, one frail young man took off on his bike traversing the less-taken roads. Today, he’s a cult figure for bikers, hailed as the Human GPS among members of the subculture.

“The moment I saw a squiggly white line on a TTK map, I used to go find where the road leads to. In 1988, I took the rally route from Munnar to Berijam. The road was officially open then but people advised me against it as the place had wild elephants. But I listened to my heart. Those days a simple bike trip from Coimbatore to Kodaikanal was considered outrageous but I biked all the way from Bombay to Bhutan,” says H V Kumar, who calls himself a 'non-conformist' and a 'rebel'. “Before I went to Bhutan, I didn’t know anything about that country. All my trips were unplanned and I learnt about the place only after reaching there, as information was scanty. There has never been a mission for my travel except love for travel.”

Over the years, Kumar became the reference point for many aspiring bikers, for directions and other information. He became popular through word of mouth and a handwritten logbook that he maintained became highly useful for anyone who wanted to travel. “I used to jot down information on the routes, places to eat and stay with contact numbers and when people came consulting me, I used to map out the way for them, give them details about the route and place. It was about giving them the confidence to travel and not so much about the car or bike.”

Gradually the small community of travellers sought Kumar's advice through Email, Yahoo and Google groups and then on social media. “With the advent of Facebook in 2004, I signed up and one of my friends started a fan club for me embarrassingly christened as 'H V Kumar fan forum and message board' which became a platform for information dissemination. We are among the first pioneering Facebook communities in the group format. It kept growing organically and now we have people across the country, even in smallest towns and cities. We are the largest online highway community in India. We talk about roads, driving and our experience on the highways,” he says.

The walking GPS for bikers

In 2010, he started to build the community as a proper network, renamed it as HiVay King Club offering off and on-road initiatives, helping people during accidents and medical emergencies. “Whether it's Kallakurichi or Kallidaikurichi, we have community people physically present everywhere. It's an avant garde community where we know each other and connect personally,” says Kumar who is now the travel advisor for many motorists in India and has built a whole range of products. “As advising and giving information took a toll on my time, I made it a business by putting a nominal price on my services. We started with simple products like booking a hotel on the highway. In small places like Jammu or Ratlam, we help bikers get budget accommodation. The hotels didn’t know for years that we were giving them business and referring people to them. So we built a partnership and negotiated lower rates for the people we referred. For example, Bangalore to Delhi on a bike is a typical three-day trip and you need to stay somewhere. So we identified all the hotels en route. We share the experiences and collect feedback from motorists as to which hotel is the best in a particular town. And now we partner with 1,200 hotels across the country.”

Ladakh is now a lifetime ambition for many travellers and HVK Club offers a Ladakh advisory product. It's the most popular package where the biker avails a properly laid out route plan, hotels end-to-end, 24x7 helpline and constant support through Whatsapp. “We help motorists through networking and technical skills. If suppose the car has a breakdown, we help to fix it without having to go to a workshop. It's a community-based initiative in a structured fashion,” he says. “Another desirable product is the North East plan. We also have a club concept where we offer renewable membership. Our app HVK, is essentially navigation where we design a route made by experts and not computer to include aspects like safe and better roads. We also live track people on the road as some may feel nervous while travelling to a strange place. When people go with family, concern is from safety to washrooms and we step in to help. We have monsoon drives, entirely managed by volunteers. Whether housewives or IT guys anyone with a passion for travelling picks up the phone and responds to someone on the road.”

For more details, visit www.hivayking.in or https://www.facebook.com/groups/hvkumar/


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Printable version | Nov 25, 2021 9:18:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/meet-h-v-kumar-a-veteran-traveller-spearheading-the-largest-online-network-of-bikers-hivay-king-club-through-which-he-has-been-guiding-travellers-en-route-their-destinations/article19114447.ece

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