#Story of Young Entrepreneurs series:
#Story Number :2
We sat down with the team of the highly successful Drivers4Me to map their trail from concept to launch, and to bring to you the extraordinary journeys of your alumnus. We applaud their dedication, skill and devotion to solving one of the myriad problems that plague us in our everyday lives. Read a first hand account of how they got inspired to create this business model.
“The drive to create a reliable online platform for hiring professional drivers came early in our college days. We were familiar with the existing driver hiring system – through local “driver centres” and through occasional first hand experiences and those of friends, family and relatives, we knew that this was a highly limited and failing system that needed change. We realised that, with the rise in smartphone usage, and the significant growth of the Automobile industry, an online solution to driver hiring was the need of the hour.
We are a group of 5 Computer Science Engineers, all hailing from the Institute of Engineering & Management (IEM), Kolkata, who launched Drivers4Me, our dream project in 2018. My team members are Paramartha Saha, Prachatos Mitra, Ronit Ray and Rajarshi Basu.
We were studying the existing system of driver hiring in East India predominated by local driver centres. The system was severely flawed as it lacked reliability, professionalism, and a standard pricing model. The driver centres were not big on customer experience, could not be scaled and made little or no use of common-place technology (smartphones and the internet). Booking was a tedious process and you had to make several phone calls to get the best deals on service. In addition to owners of private cars, businesses where the movement of cars are involved, require these services. This includes key players in the Transportation industry.
Our work began with a PoC in 2017 by developing mobile apps for the customers and the drivers. Upon releasing them, we received an astounding response from the users and had already completed 300 trips by the end of the year. Back then we were in our makeshift “office” Ashram Campus – a gesture of motivation from our College Founder Director.
As my team mate Ronit recalls, “One of the main reasons for our initial success and growth is because of our CS (Computer Science) background, and also because we handled everything (app & web development, operations, finances, driver hiring & training) ourselves, instead of using 3rd party service providers.”
Our ecstasy at the initial success almost scared the newly admitted candidates away! Emboldened by our progress, we continued to strive forward. By December 2018, with 5000+ trips and introduction of B2B services, Drivers4Me was official! From that point, there was no turning back. We had all secured campus placements, but we took the entrepreneurial plunge eventually.
My other team mate Paramartha Saha mentions, “Creating a successful startup was always my dream and every day we are coming one step closer to make it come true. We need support from everyone to make it successful. We have seen demand for this service, all we need is more people to try it out. Leaving a job and starting a business is always a hard decision to make not knowing whether it will be successful or not, but I am happy that I made that choice.”
The early phases of a startup are the real testing times, but, with the motivation and sticktoit-iveness of the team that we have overcome hurdle after hurdle. We had to work through problems such as what would make us attractive to users and what would be our unique features. We realised early on that, the best way to cater to a market of this magnitude was to go online!
“We were inspired by other offline services that went online to use technology for improving customer experience in driver hiring. We have useful features such as driver tracking, online payment, custom trip types built into our app. Moreover, we are using AI models to match customers to drivers they prefer while keeping price competitive with other players”, says my friend and co-partner Prachatos.
We had to brainstorm to figure out what would make Drivers4Me a viable choice from the Driver’s point of view as well. We understood that to build a system which can deliver, we needed to focus on both our stakeholders – the customer and the driver. One of our core members, Rajarshi Basu reiterates that at Drivers4Me, we provide insurance, perks, training, grooming and feedback support which go a long way in a driver’s welfare and to strengthen the company’s relationship with them. Besides the low commission rates, such options make us an appealing choice for them. These were some of the several key questions we had to answer to pave the way for growth. From rooftop meetings to expanding in a new city in October 2019 to the present user base of 20000+ and over 850 drivers, we have persevered together through thick and thin.
We have met and worked with several unique and talented individuals. We brought Hillol Barman – a highly talented and creative individual and a true wizard with the graphical elements, into our journey and he has been with us ever since. “I joined the team a few months after they had formed. As a newbie designer for a company, every single sector starting from promotional flyer to user interface was a challenge for me. Till this day, every time I face new challenges and motivate myself by acquiring those. To expand the learning curve, I am also learning the front end of app and web development from the team members. I can see my future career here with my team very promising and this has been all possible for the good teamwork and understanding among us.”, Hillol says.
We have come a long way in our venture, but we still have much further to go. The interest our product has garnered among the masses especially with noteworthy articles in several esteemed newspapers (such as the Times of India, Anandabazar Patrika, The Telegraph and many others is quite remarkable. Apart from Kolkata we provide services to a few of our big business (B2B) clients namely Cars24, Zoomcar, Revv, JW Marriott – in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad & Pune, in near future we shall start app-based B2C (individual customer) services in these cities. We have also thought of integrating more services into our app in the future like shuttle, carpooling, cab service, car servicing, etc. It is our goal to make Drivers4Me the one-stop App solution to all your transportation and car-related problems.”
#Alumni, #IEM Kolkata
#IEM #INNOVATION #YOUNG #ENTREPRENEURS #TEAM
Article courtesy: Prof. Avijit Bose, IEM
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