Passion in their eyes, the duo explains the meaning of Ubida. In Sanskrit, Ubi means location, while ida means intelligence. Mukesh Jha and Janardan Prasad, directors and co-founders of a start-up in Pune have named their company Ubida Solutions Pvt Limited, which has brought to people in the city the facility to dial-in an autorickshaw.
“There are similar services available for cabs and taxis, but autorickshaw is a more economical choice that people make everyday and, more often than not, it is difficult to find a ride. So we thought what if we take the autos to the customers and get them to the autos assuring rides and reducing dead miles!” says Prasad.
The thought was novel, but was it workable? Would the rickshaw drivers agree to be a part of such a network? Would it be feasible and at the same time gain commercial success? These were the questions doing the rounds in the duo’s heads.
Nevertheless, the two IITians plunged into it. After all, right from the days of their friendship from IIT Kanpur’s chemical engineering classes they knew they would have their own start-up one day.
With an approach to scientific research, they surveyed over 100 drivers and tried to get an insight into their issues and worries. They interviewed over 300 customers, too, to gauge whether such a service was desirable. The findings showed that the vehicle drivers travelled empty almost 25 per cent of their time, while customers spent a considerable time either looking for an autorickshaw or getting the drivers to agree to a particular destination. Jha and Prasad realised they had hit the nail on the head. They piloted the idea for four months in February 2010.
This is how it works: A customer needs to plan and call on +91-99229-04000 to book a ride at least an hour in advance. A system personally devised by the techies then locates the rickshaws in the vicinity and identifies the available drivers. A text message is sent to the customer’s mobile number with details like the vehicle registration number, driver’s name, his mobile number, pick-up time, distance in kilometres and the approximate fare calculated based on it.
“We wanted to use an existing infrastructure. Initially we ran the facility for friends where we would note down numbers of the rickshaw drivers around our house and contact them in case we required rides. Now the pilot is over and we are ready to take the next leap,” says Jha.
The next mile to cross is to move out from their home office and find a formal workplace, hire staff, set up a call centre and draw up a viable business plan to turn it into a commercial operation.
Says Prasad: “We have put in our savings so far in this system for the trial. Many companies are now approaching us and have shown interest in partnering with us. But we are yet to zero-in on a revenue model, which we intend to do by the next quarter.” Currently free, this service is likely to have a nominal convenience fee ranging from Rs 5 to Rs 10 per transaction.
Our expansion plans include hiring autorickshaw coordinators, pitch the service to more drivers, sensitise them and then integrate them into the network. Now working only on a phone line, the system will be extended to web and messaging service as well.
Early on probably, but thank-you notes and praises have already started pouring in. Senior citizens and physically challenged people are availing of the service because of its convenience.
“Even as we sign on rickshawwallas, they are free to accept or reject a ride. We respect their work-life balance and their freedom,” says the duo, their humility showing as they sign off.