If you live in metropolitan cities like Delhi or Mumbai, getting stuck in traffic is a part of commuters' daily woes. If there's incessant rain or VIP movement or a public rally, then traffic troubles only worsen. To help drivers get prior information about traffic, around a year ago Mumbai-based startup Birds Eye Systems (BES) came up with an app called Traffline to give instant live updates. Brijraj Vaghnani and Ravi Khemani, co-founders of BES, had earlier started a portal by the same name.
But first, how does Traffline work and what is it all about? Traffline functions on a network of GPS trackers across the city - it's currently in place in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore - and provides continuous updates on several routes across these cities. For instance, if a commuter wants to know about the traffic condition between Saket and Connaught Place in New Delhi, the app will inform him or her about traffic density using colour codes for heavy, moderate or smooth drives.
BES started collating raw traffic data from various sources like call centres and traffic police and then developed an algorithm to convert the raw data into meaningful information. Khemani says the challenge was to pass on the data to consumers in a user-friendly way. "So we started off with our website first, and when smart phone penetration started to increase, we took it to the mobile platform," he says.
Available on iPhone, Android and Blackberry platforms, the company claims that it has received over 40,000 plus downloads. It also has an active presence on Twitter, with a considerably low number of 6,000 followers, but there the updates are provided between 8 am and 9 pm from Monday to Saturday. The concept is being marketed using social media campaigns only and the company has no plans to use any other medium as of now.
There's also an SMS alert and email alert subscription package available at Rs 849 per year and Rs 549 per year, respectively. To use the SMS and email alerts, users can choose source and destination location for which they want to receive updates. They can either opt for a fixed time to receive an update or for an on-demand alert. For the latter, sending an SMS gets you information on current traffic conditions. "I use the app daily while going to work from Andheri to Dadar, and it works most of the times," says Akshat Shukla, a banker in Mumbai.
The company received angel funding of Rs 2 crore last year and aims to handle 10 million traffic requests per day. There are plans to launch the service in 15 cities - among them, Pune, Kolkata, Chandigarh and Ahmedabad - in the next two years. On the BES website, there's also a sidebar which constantly gives updates about traffic jams or any accident which might disrupt traffic on particular routes in the city. But is the app accurate enough?
We tried the app in Delhi from Vasant Kunj to Greater Kailash II. At the time we drove through the city, the app showed traffic to be smooth, which it was. Mumbai Traffic Police has now tied up with Traffline to provide information on their official website as well.
So how does the company plan to generate revenue? Plans are on to create revenues from the value-added-services, location-based advertising, subscribers and through call centres. Currently, Traffline has around 10,000 subscribed users and is looking to grow the number "substantially" in the next few months as they plan to go to other cities. Overall across platforms, Traffline has a user base of close to 300,000 users.
The association of Khemani and Vaghnani goes back years when they were both techies in the US. "Traffic monitoring systems are quite common in West but there was nothing as such in India," says Khemani, which is why they decided to tap the potential in the space. As of now, there aren't many competitors to Traffline. Although Nokia Navigation does provide real-time traffic updates on its Windows smartphones. Even Google Maps and Mapmyindia give traffic updates in Delhi and Mumbai. As smartphone users in the country grow each passing month, Traffline is a concept that has the potential to grow bigger.