One can soon enjoy a luxury bus caravan trip to visit various temples in South India. As temple tourism is catching up, the Chennai-based SRM Group has decided to shut down its long-distance bus transport business, and convert many of its luxury buses, including Mercedes Benz, Volvo and Scania, into caravans.

The company, one of the largest private bus operators in India, has around 150 hi-techbuses, including Mercedes-Benz (28), Scania (18) and Volvo (38). “Due to high operational difficulties, including the escalating diesel cost, we cannot run the transport business,” said the group’s Chairman, Ravi Pachamuthu. Covid has also aggravated the crisis, and the business incurred significant losses.

On converting a bus in to caravan would l cost ₹50-60 lakh each, he told BusinessLine.

On bus caravans

The group has strong presence in education, healthcare, hospitality and media, apart from transportation. At present, there are many bus caravans used by professionals like film artists. Some even hire it for adventures. However, temple tourism is first-of-its-kind, he added. “Wherever there is a prominent temple, we plan to have a decent hotel there,” said Pachamuthu. The temple tourism plan fits well into that strategy. The company owns five hotels in Chennai, Thoothukudi and Tiruchi, he said.

SRM Transport used to operate long-distance bus service from Tamil Nadu to the major cities in Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and to various districts within the state. There are around 700 staff, he said. The transport division also used to be in the cargo business, which has also being shut.

Temple tourism is going to be a huge attraction in the future. “Having made a mark in the long-distance luxury bus segment, we want to make a mark in the temple tourism sector,” he said. “We will cover all the major temples in the South,” he added

The SRM group has its own body-building unit — SRM Auto Tec — where the chassis are converted in to buses. This unit is now involved in converting the buses into caravans, he said.

Other features

“We are also getting enquiries from other companies to make caravans,” he said. A bus caravan, which is like a hotel room, comes with a sofa-cum-bed, aster bedroom and pantry.

Interestingly, as parking of buses will be a major problem near the temples, the bus caravan will have car inside the vehicle. The bus caravan will be parked away, and the car will be used to take passengers to the temple and return, he said.