Time flies and so do traditions! Recently the world bade adieu to the custom of flagging down cabs for personal rides. The Ola and Uber rides have disrupted the commuting sector by making rides a matter of sheer ease, comfort and pleasingly automated. Daring to venture in this space dominated by giants, is a homegrown brand, SmartMumbaikars, an initiative by Gujarat’s Raxit Seth.
The brand journey
A computer science engineer from Rajkot , Seth moved to his dream city Mumbai and was working as an engineer with Phonologies and Polaris Software Lab (now Intellect Design), a software startup company. The growing app-friendly culture of urbanites intrigued Seth who started building smart apps for offering ease and comfortable commutes for the people of Mumbai. His first venture Mobile 4 Mumbai was also a personal ride app which eventually took a smarter and more advanced form in SmartMumbaikars.
SmartMumbaikar is very much like Ola or Uber, albeit with a slight difference. It is primarily a WhatsApp group offering carpooling solutions to office goers. Availing the service, verified users can share a journey with co-travelers to ditch the fuss over cab or auto-rickshaw shortage.
“SmartMumbaikar was conceived to particularly address the gap of ride- shortage, ever rising tariff, unoptimized and costly commutation. The Idea is very simple, if two or more people are going to the same/nearby destinations from the same starting point, there is no point in going alone and increasing traffic, pollution, fuel usage and cost. The best way is to opt for sustainable traveling where two or more people can easily share a car or auto-rickshaw with other verified users and optimize the cost, resource and save environment as well,” explains Seth.
“Unlike other apps we are not cab hailing/booking service, we provide a platform to optimise your commutation with other office goers on your route. This saves cost and hassle. For the ease of the users, we are running fully on WhatsApp! So no separate app has to be downloaded. Whether you want to offer a lift in your car, or you want to ride in someone’s car or you are looking to share a cab with others, everything can be done from the WhatsApp group. Other App based Cab booking services may be used for booking individual cabs but SmartMumbaikar offers “App-less cab sharing service”. The communities we have built around this are thriving on the ease of getting or offering rides is solely based on WhatsApp and this makes us different,” further adds the young-preneur.
Commuting in a Covid19 world
“SmartMumbaikars is largely bootstrapped; however I must thank my friends, family and customers for continuous support when things didn’t work out as expected and while we suffered from short term fund crunches. Mumbaikars (People of Mumbai) are not just helpful but extremely encouraging when you are doing something right. But like any other startups, in our early days, we committed a big mistake! For the first two years, we did not have a decent paid user base with almost zero carpool rides. Response based on the concept was amazing and encouraging but nothing was working for us on the ground. Initially, the only thing we were doing was refunding the money to the ones who paid us and getting insights from them! However, it was a great learning experience. And now, the Covid19 situation has made things worse for all of us since the sales have deteriorated drastically. Mumbai has been badly hit and like everyone else our business too has suffered. But we have known hardships and are confident that this too shall pass and we will bounce back in full swing.” enthuses Seth.
A start-up enthusiast himself, Seth is all for this burgeoning trend and believes that young entrepreneurs are now exploring a plethora of options to showcase innovation. “Startup culture is maturing in India opening a lot of opportunities for young talents to make a positive impact in India and abroad. Building a unique product or service which is innovative, budgeted and simple will always attract customers. But, something that stands out from the rest will instantly be a hit and will turn heads” notifies a confident Seth.
Post lockdown transportation
Due to Covid19 lockdown, the entire transportation industry has been badly hit due to lack of human resource (where people reverse migrated to their hometown), shutting down of offices and non essential places like malls or the rising fuel cost. Almost any travel segment be it restaurant deliveries, movement of essential items from factory to stores, everything is highly dependent on human resource, fuel cost, time to transport.
“It will not be surprising if in the long run, some of these aspects can be innovated and replaced with automated transports like drones for delivery of small goods, driverless vehicles et al or with alternate energy sources like EV, solar. It is just a matter of time!” predicts the feisty tech-preneur.