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Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Starscapes: India’s first provider of integrated astronomy experience

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Starscapes is India’s first portal that focused on “delivering a comprehensive astronomy experience”.

It provides professional equipment for observations, astrophotography, and research initiatives in private observatories. Young Paul Savio was no exception. As a young lad, Paul was kept hostage by the night sky on nights out with his father.

Paul and Ramashish Ray founded Starscapes Experiences, an astrotourism company that operates a network of observatories, in 2015.

Starscapes Experiences is India’s first portal focused on “delivering a comprehensive astronomy experience”. Who is the intended audience? Anyone who is intrigued with the sky.

The Gurugram-based firm operates public and private observatories in Uttarakhand’s Kausani and Bhimtal, as well as one in Ooty and a mobile observatory in Jaipur. In collaboration with Club Mahindra, a hospitality brand under the Mahindra Group, Starscapes has a presence in Goa, Pondicherry, and Madikeri.

Guests can go to the nearest dark sky area, where Starscapes provides stargazing technology and advice.

“It’s for folks who want to try something new,” Paul explains.

All observatories have telescopes and other necessary equipment. They also hold astronomy museums, where Starscapes has installed exhibitions, virtual reality activities, and a merchandising store.

The day starts early and ends late, depending on the time of day. The day performance costs between Rs 300 and Rs 500, while the night show, which is the primary draw, costs between Rs 500 and Rs 800. “You will see the moon, the planets that are then visible, the rings of Saturn, the satellites of Jupiter, the phases of Venus that seem similar to those of the moon, and some deep sky objects like Orion Nebula, which is 700 light years ahead where stars are being formed.

The sessions are guided by 25 qualified staff who discuss the histories, trivia, science, and mythology associated with constellations, planetary bodies, and deep sky phenomena. Participants in the experience also learn how to identify certain stars and constellations.

If a person is unable to visit an observatory, Starscapes brings the experience to them using portable observing instruments and temporary set-ups.

However, following the epidemic, the startup has abandoned this offering. For youngsters, workshops on how to create rockets, sundials, and spaceship and rover models are organised.

Astrophotography workshops with specialists are available for astronomy and photography lovers.

Prices start at Rs 10,000 and go higher from there. It also intends to more than treble its staff size in the following four months.”

Starscapes has collaborated with small homestays and motels to offer an astronomy experience at their establishments. The startup uses these ties to spread the word about its offers.

“We work with Club Mahindra on all of its properties and now service six of its largest resorts.

The term “hospitality” refers to the practise of bringing together a variety of different types of people to share their experiences. Aside from that, numerous smaller homestays and motels in the vicinity of our observatories organise astronomy experiences,” Paul explains.

Each can host up to 30 people and is accessible at key dark sky spots throughout India.

It also hosts events for residential buildings and has collaborations with JK Lakshmipat University in Jaipur and Shiv Nadar University in Dadri.

Business suffered during the epidemic, and the startup only reopened in 2021.

Since then, Starscapes has served 50,000 consumers.

It earned Rs 35 lakh in the first ten months of 2021.

It plans to raise its sales by 11 times in the following year, reaching Rs 3.8 crore.

Astrotourism is gaining popularity in India as a form of ecotourism. It is further reinforced by a recent Ministry of Tourism effort to examine and develop “nature-based tourism”.

Startups such as Chennai-based Space Arcade and Delhi-based Spark Astronomy compete with Starscapes.

While several of these firms’ products are comparable, Starscapes is the only one with observatories and agreements with lodging companies.

Starscapes plans to open a new observatory in Coorg and resume astro tours that will transport travellers to dark sky regions such as Spiti Valley, Ladakh, and other parts of the nation.

These came to a halt during the epidemic due to lockdowns and travel restrictions.

In addition, the business is considering expanding its connections with schools and colleges for trips and outings.

Starscapes, which was founded with a Rs 20 lakh initial investment, is hoping to attract funding this fiscal year.

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