In 2011, two friends got together and started a company which wanted to become the MakeMyTrip of the Taxi industry. There weren’t any breakthrough moments or dramatic scenes, just the urge to give themselves a chance to make it big and TaxiForSure was born. Raghunandan G and Aprameya Radhakrishna raised a round of funding from Helion Venture Partners, Accel Partners and Blume Ventures in 2012 and then another round in 2013. With a total of $4 mn to back them, the two have set out on an ambitious plan in a crowded space (with many online taxi companies and the imminent launch of Uber in Bangalore). We caught up with Radhakrishna to learn how. Edited excerpts:
What’s the latest at Taxiforsure?
We set out to solve the problem of taxis not being available. TaxiForSure was launched in June 2011 in Bangalore and has now started services in Delhi. We are doing about 2000 transactions a day. We recently launched a mobile application because that’s where customers are going to be.
How do you solve the availability problem?
We aggregate operators and not drivers. This approach is different from a lot of mainstream companies who work with drivers. Taxi is a time and space complexity. When we get a cab request, all free cabs in a 5 kilometer radius are alerted. Taxis can bid for a trip and our bid resolution algorithm assigns a taxi to a trip. The resolution is based on parameters like how long has the taxi been waiting, how much has it earned, customer feedback and the distance from the point of pick up.
But what really differentiates you? There are at least 15 players in the market already.
The first is our approach, like I said before. Since we work with operators, it increases availability. Say for instance even if one operator does not have taxis in an area while others might. This way we can make more taxis available. Secondly, our technology costs are much lesser. On the back end, we work on a smartphone based application. It can be loaded onto an existing smartphone. We also look at maximizing the number of kilometers for a taxi so they make enough money.
So you are competing with the operators and the aggregators?
Not really. We give bookings for operators. We are like the MakeMyTrip or the Redbus for taxis. It’s like how BookMyShow is to PVR now. This is also an area where the demand far outstrips the supply.
We want to be in 15 cities by 2015. In the next 2-3 months we will launch in Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad. We are also planning to get into corporate bookings. We are operationally profitable in Bangalore and have about 200 people working for us. About 20 of them are in the tech team. Bookings are growing about 40% month on month.
What challenges do you face?
Hiring the right people is a challenge, like in any startup. Hiring people who can scale to the next level is tough. Also, enabling technology in a space which isn’t very tech savvy is challenging. But as operators and drivers start seeing benefits, they change their attitude towards technology.
What was the starting point for the startup?
It was a chance meeting between me and Raghu (Raghunandan G), my co-founder that we decided to do this. The idea was to put all cabs under the same platform. Both of us studied at NIT-K & went to IIM-Ahmadabad. We decided to give ourselves this one opportunity to make a difference. We started in Bangalore because both of us are from here and not because we had any market research to back it up.
Roughly what percentage of bookings come online and over the phone?
About 30% are online and the rest are on the phone.