Stuck in traffic? This start-up offers help
Real time traffic updates and solutions to negotiate peak hour traffic with ease is what will make this start-up story a success, believe its co-founders.
Imagine this. You are running late for office and the vehicle in which you are travelling in gets stuck in peak-hour traffic. The same happens again while returning home.
For most people living in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune etc where peak hour traffic is anything but bumper-to-bumper, commute time is what adds to their stress. And this is where Ravi Khemani and Brijraj Vaghani of Traffline.com come in.
Their four-year-old start-up offers real time traffic update, travel time from place A to place B depending on the traffic enroute, and the best possible alternative route to cover this distance if you find yourself stuck in traffic.
The two Mumbai-born engineers came back to India in 2008 after working with technology majors like QualComm and CareerBuilder in the US.
"Practically, everyone looks up for traffic information in the West. Such a concept did not exist in India and we knew this could be a unique thing and would give us an early mover's advantage if we do things correctly," says Ravi when asked if such a business model would work in India.
In fact, the duo had been thinking about this concept of traffic monitoring when they were doing their Masters in Computer Science from University of Missouri, Kansas City. "In the US we were all habituated to check the traffic information before going out and it was really very helpful to plan our travel," says Brijraj.
So, when they finally landed up in India for good, "for family reasons", they decided to join hands as they realised their skill sets complemented each other.
While Ravi is the software guy writing applications, designing system architecture, Brij is a hardware guy working with gadgets and VLSI (Very large Scale Integration) technology and so thought they should start it and see how it went.
With both of them confident that their idea had a ready market, was scalable quickly, they decided to chip in with their own money with the hope that if they get their strategy right, they had a product that would gain traction because of their early mover's advantage.
The other advantage that the duo would have over others offering a similar service is the software they have designed.
Traffline's algorithm captures live movement on the streets through probes -- which could be vehicles or individuals on the road, the traffic police of a particular city or public transport vehicles - that is beamed through satellites in micro seconds to their servers where the data is crunched across parameters like congestion time, vehicular movement etc to come up with real time information on a given traffic situation and how to avoid it.
"The information we offer our users about traffic is as real as it would have occurred in this last minute," says Ravi. "The accuracy is to the best extent of the field-testing we have done and we give out travel time estimates in real time traffic situations not just based on street maps," he adds explaining their value proposition to subscribers.
What's more, to add value to their subscribers who do not have access to the Internet they have started a low profile call centre to offer live traffic updates and the best route to come out of the traffic if stuck in a jam.
The other value proposition to the consumer is Traffline's text-based traffic information. "This helps traffic information to be viewed and read on any mobile phone device in text form as well so even those with a basic phone that reads only text messages can get real time updates," says Brijraj.
Interestingly, even as they were bootstrapping their dream project and getting exposure in the market, they got featured in the Power Of Ideas hosted by The Economic Times at IIM-A where they were the first-prize winners. Soon their idea got incubated at Centre of Incubation of Entrepreneurs affiliated to IIM-A and from that moment there was no looking back for these entrepreneurs. The Indian Angel Network too chipped in with funding in January 2012.
Though available only in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore Traffline now has 30,000 registered users and another 40,000 anonymous users who avail their traffic updates and other value added services at no cost through their Web site and apps available on the Google Play Store and Apple's iTunes.
"We also want to expand our services to tier 2 and tier 3 cities where the traffic situation is starting to worsen," says Ravi about their expansion plans.
"We would also look forward to convert our pull-based users into push-based subscribers," says Brijraj expounding on how they plan to monetise their efforts.
Pull-based users are those who go to Traffline's Web site or mobile apps to get traffic updates where as push-based technology streams live traffic updates from Traffline's servers to consumers' mobile phones once they subscribe to the service.
Traffline soon plans to design apps for the Windows 8 platform and more recently it was among the top 30 apps out of the 30,000 featured when BlackBerry launched its spanking new operating system BB10.
Image: From left: Ravi Khemani and Brijraj Vaghani, co-founders Traffline.com