Urban Transport Entrepreneurship Event
29 May 2013 | Mumbai: EMBARQ India brought together entrepreneurs operating in the urban transport sector in Mumbai on May 29th, 2013. The meeting was a largely informal event aimed at providing a shared space for entrepreneurs in Mumbai, and showcasing the market potential for current innovations in the sector. In attendance were entrepreneurs involved in a vast array of services and solutions in urban transportation. In keeping the tone of the meeting informal, EMBARQ India was able to encourage sharing of personal experiences in setting up their enterprises, as well as share the growth story of EMBARQ India over the past decade.
The meeting saw animated discussions among entrepreneurs in smaller groups, and eventually led to introductions by all attendees. Amonst those who attended were incubation funds (inFUSE Ventures, Ahmedabad) and those striving to create funding opportunities in the sustainable urban transport space (Shell Foundation). They underlined how important it was to support entrepreneurs such as those present and encouraging more innovative solutions to urban transport problems.
Raxit Sheth (SmartMumbaikar) explained how his service facilitates dynamic ridesharing among commuters in Mumbai, and his hopes of going live with the product in the coming months. In addition to SmartMumbaikar, Raxit’s company (Mobile 4 Mumbai) offers innovative commuting solutions for the B2B and B2C sectors. Sachin Teke (Mobond) had by far the most well-known enterprise in the room – M-indicator helps several thousands of Mumbaikars obtain information regarding the bus, suburban rail, auto-rickshaw, and taxi system. Sachin said that the success of M-indicator has been a learning journey, with the promise of expanding in the information services industry.
SharedCab’s founders, NV Subramaniam and Prakash Sikaria described how they came up with their “Indian spin on carpooling” in order to overcome the traffic woes of commuters in Mumbai. By pooling commuters into a comfortable air-conditioned taxi ride, both Prakash and NV now want to better manage the scope for expansion of SharedCab. Chetan Temkar (SmartShehar.com) had returned from a long stint in outsourcing and marketing roles in the US and wanted to personally impact the lives of people. With SmartShehar (and an attempt at carpooling) he was a one-man army, looking to arm more passengers with information regarding Mumbai’s chaotic transport system.
MeterDown has come to be known for making space for advertising where no one had been before, on auto-rickshaws. As the Chief Auto-rickshaw Driver at MeterDown, Mulchand Dedhia introduced an in-journey magazine and helped drivers earn an alternate source of income. Sridhar Kalmadi (Corona Buses) outlined the vision with which his company wanted to make buses: building the best buses for the country (with a distinct chassis-less bus design), and making public transport a dignified way of travelling for all (with more passenger space by widening the gangway area). Ram Badrinathan (GlobalTHEN) took a plunge into the driver training area with a focus on the travel and tourism industry. Since then, his media campaign around driver sensitization (Pawan Ko Kahin Dekha Kya?) has been well-received, with nearly 10,000 drivers signing up. Ram also appreciated the idea of a shared space for entrepreneurs and getting together all the entrepreneurs working in the urban transport sector.
Finally, the youngest entrepreneurs in the room, Anirudhan Iyengar and Pooja Katara (Mool-a-roop), were credited with initiating a bicycle-sharing scheme in the suburb of Vile Parle, providing last mile connectivity between the local railway station and an educational institution. They are fresh off winning the Team Challenge at the National Student Challenge (Indian Institute of Human Settlements), and are looking to hit the ground running with a team of 5 and two docks for bicycles. Their pilot project is expected to take off later in September this year. As the only scheduled speakers at the event, Madhav Pai (EMBARQ India) and Zahir Mirza (Doosra Brand Communications) spoke about their experience with founding enterprises that always aimed to defy traditional thinking. Zahir joked how he was in the business of “transporting ideas”, and said that Doosra was very keen on helping entrepreneurs build their brand image and help as much as possible.
The meeting concluded with calls all around for an encore, and with the hope that EMBARQ India would be able to facilitate more such meetings of entrepreneurs to share their stories, and provide a platform for engaging with a community that is constantly buzzing with innovation.