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Track and book autos from the comforts of home with 'appycab' mobile app
Gurgaonites no longer need to wait for auto-rickshaws on roadsides as a city-based MBA graduate Vishal Sharma has developed a mobile phone application 'Appycab' that will let users book an auto-rickshaw from the comforts of their living room. In an interview with citizen journalist Rajat Bhatia, Sharma shares what led him to make this application, and how it will make booking an auto-rickshaw hassle-free.

Tell us about this application. How does it work?

It is a first of its kind application, which can help commuters hire an auto nearest to their current location. So let's say you are at home in DLF Phase-I and you want to go to Sector 14. You pick up your smart phone, click on the 'appycab' icon and you are presented with four autos that are within one kilometre radius of your house. You simply click to call the auto driver to pick you up at your house. It's that simple.

How did this idea come to your mind?

Some two years back, when I was doing an Executive MBA from MDI Gurgaon the class went on very late in the night. That very day I did not bring my car and I was wondering if I would get an auto/bus ride back home. My friend Ashok Pershad had the phone number of an auto driver he used to take every day and simply called the auto rickshaw for me. It was that simple.

The very next minute, I called up my business partner Pawan and shared this experience and we both decided to do something about this problem that the ordinary Gurgaonites face, which technology can easily help overcome. Then we met over the course of many days and helped shape up the idea.

How many auto-rickshaws are registered on this application?

Over the last couple of days we have got huge response from both consumers and auto drivers. To meet the growing demand, we now have 100+ autos.

Was it easy/ difficult to convince auto-rickshaw drivers?

This is a real win-win situation for both drivers and consumers. We did not have much difficulty convincing the Auto Unions, and they in turn worked with the drivers to get them registered with us.

What are the benefits for commuters and auto rickshaw drivers?

Like I said, in a win-win situation both parties benefit. For consumers, it becomes possible now to hire an auto within 10 minutes, without even stepping out on the road. All this for free. For autos, it leads to much more business and less time on the road waiting for commuters.

Auto-rickshaw drivers generally fleece commuters. Does this app address that issue? If yes, how?

The price of a service is governed by the demand and supply mismatch. In 'appycab' application you are given four autos and a reference pricing is always available at one additional click. 'appycab' is uniquely positioned to help close this supply-demand gap and ensure fair prices become the norm.

How is this service different from other cab booking services like easy cabs, pink auto, White Express etc?

We are not competing with any of these services; in fact, we look ourselves as facilitators in helping people get the best of these services. For example, the failure of Pink Autos (according to news reports) is attributed more to the inaccessibility of these services to women. We are simply providing a solution which makes the pink autos accessible to women where they need it and when they need it.

Did you face any resistance from Auto Unions?

Till now, we have taken the route of Auto Unions only and they have been of tremendous support. More auto drivers would be encouraged to join the Auto Union because it would help them get more business.

Do you maintain a proper database of drivers? Do you accept the registrations randomly or you first check their background? Or, is there any such plan?

Yes, since the autos are already registered with the Auto Union and the local police station, they are safer and secure than those autos which are not part of the Auto Union.

Does this app ensure safety to women commuters?

This app is an endeavor to make commuting in autos more secure and safe. It is much more secure than hiring an auto off the road as the auto driver is trackable on your mobile phone before and after you hire. We will continue to introduce more features towards making auto hiring fast, easy and more secure. We need to discard old notions and think afresh in introducing new ways and tools to make women more secure and sure of themselves. Women in Gurgaon are far smarter and capable to take care of themselves; we need to empower them with concerted efforts of making the city women friendly.

Which smartphones support this app?

It can be downloaded from Google App Store, and very soon we will come out with a universal app for all phones.

Which areas does this service cover and what are your future plans?

As of today, we are operating in New Gurgaon. In the next few weeks, we are launching it in Mumbai and Delhi followed by other metros.

How does this app benefit you, financially?

The monetization route of mobile apps is through standard channels of ad revenue and usage of the application itself. We are more than break even from first day of operations. Consumers can go to www.appycab.com on their smartphones to download the app, or go to Google PlayStore and search for appycab. With just a click you can install application on any Android phone.

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