There are two things that all of us living in cities complain of – air pollution and a lack or shortage of safe and affordable transportation. To a certain extent, both these problems can be resolved by a simple solution called Carpooling.
Ravikumar Kumarasamy is trying to address both these issues with his maiden entrepreneurial venture – GreenPool – an on demand carpooling mobile app. Launched in June 2015, GreenPool aims to offer solutions to the basic problems people face with carpooling and provide a convenient commuting option.
Ravikumar, founder of GreenPool, is an experienced IT professional with around 22 years of experience of working with large IT companies like Wipro, Polaris, and Oracle. He holds a BE (Mech.), MBA Finance, and is currently pursuing PhD in Management. Apart from GreenPool and his study commitments, Ravi is also passionate about biking and is an active member of the Harley Owners Group in Chennai.
We got in touch with Ravikumar to know more about GreenPool’s story and how it is helping popularise carpooling in India.
NASSCOM 10,000 Start Ups: What prompted you to launch Green Pool? What are the main consumer pain points that the product addresses?
Ravikumar: In 2014, I had to undergo an ACL reconstruction surgery. I was advised not to drive for six months after the surgery. It was during this time, that I tried to search for a carpool. I found that there was no reliable, hasslefree platform to find a carpool for daily commute. Surprised and intrigued with the results, I decided to put my research skills to use and find out, via a survey, why carpools are not popular in India despite the fact that thousands of people work under the same roof in large IT companies & IT Parks. The responses to the survey brought out four critical problems that prevented people from carpooling –
Flexible work timings
Lack of trust
Lack of freedom to choose
Difficult to calculate ride cost/person
Thus, Flower Pot Mobility was launched in June 2015, and we started the ground work for GreenPool. Greenpool’s design philosophy aims to provide a set of solutions to the above four critical problems. We have also added 360-degree use cases to make it a pragmatic and intuitive carpooling Application
NASSCOM 10,000 Start Ups: How has Green Pool been received by customers? Share some of the highlights from your journey so far?
Ravikumar: So far, the journey has been exciting. In October 2016, we received angel funding from Arun Jain of Polaris Banyan, and six other HNI’s from various IT companies. We’ve become a member of NASSCOM and are a part of its 10,000 Start Up Program.
Apart from this, the positive feedback from women users whom we thought might hesitate to use carpools, has been very motivating. We also got tremendous response when we launched GreenPool on a limited scale [pilot implementations] in Chennai through partnerships with select few large and mid size IT companies. Given the interest shown by corporates, we have also created an Enterprise version of GreenPool that can be deployed to large companies on a Dedicated Instance. For e.g. we have implemented “Intellect GreenPool” for Intellect Design Arena [erstwhile Polaris Financial Technology Software Limited]. We have also done a similar implementation for another Tier 1 IT company in India.
We also received positive feedback from the Bangalore Traffic Police after the launch of GreenPool’s first version in Bangalore in October 2015 and were also a part of the Carpooling drive in Bangalore during this time.
NASSCOM 10,000 Start Ups: There are a lot of cab aggregators who also offer the “share” option. How is GreenPool different from them? What is GreenPool’s USP?
Ravikumar: The taxi aggregators have been successful in creating a perception in people’s mind that “Sharing a Taxi Ride” is “Carpooling”. It is actually not. Carpooling is sharing one’s own car with other riders on the same route. There is no element of “profit” in carpooling. The GreenPool design philosophy was built on the basis of “Cost Sharing”. A rider can get a ride for just Rs.30/- via GreenPool, and car owners can earn/save up to Rs.6600/- by sharing their when they commute to work.
GreenPool’s USP is its secure platform and its ability to find a ride option within one’s own organization, i.e. the app first lists down options from one’s own organization or IT Park followed by other choices. We have also recently released a feature where a rider can find rides from multiple “pick-up points” to “multiple drop-off points” to enable users to cross the critical leg of their commute.
To ensure that the app meets consumer requirements, we keep track of the changing user expectations, technology trends, and continuously implement these changes in the app to deliver the best experience to the users.
NASSCOM 10,000 Start Ups: What are some of the biggest challenges that you have faced in your entrepreneurship journey so far? What has been your biggest learning from this venture?
Ravikumar: The key challenge that we faced was to fight the “carpool won’t work in India” perception. Key decision makers in IT Companies/Parks were of the opinion that sharing is not an option for Indians. But, we have been successful in proving that this belief was only a misconceived perception and not a reality. While marketing GreenPool, we found that more and more people were willing to carpool, and were ready to try out the app. Carpooling is gradually becoming accepted as a means of commute, especially with the working professionals.
Another more transient challenge, but nevertheless daunting for a just launched business, was to recoup and regain momentum after the Chennai floods in December 2015.
NASSCOM 10,000 Start Ups: What would be your advice to entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Ravikumar: No body can steal your idea. Validate your idea with as many people as you can. When you analyse the feedback, you should attempt to learn to remove the bias from the feedback and at the same time be open to implement suggested changes, however drastic they may be, to the solutions that you have put together or solutions that you had thought through. It is simply not possible for a human mind to think from all perspectives. So the more human minds you leverage, the broader your perspectives will be.
NASSCOM 10,000 Start Ups: What are your future plans for GreenPool?
Ravikumar: Now that we have a fair level of confidence on the depth of the solution and the user-friendly use cases that we have bundled in GreenPool, we are planning to launch our promotion campaigns in the other metros. We are also looking to fuel up our efforts to capture the Enterprise Carpooling Platform market in India. We want to get 50% of the Tier 1 & Tier 2 companies to adopt “Greenpool Enterprise Carpool Platform” as an extended HR Service to their employees.
By the end of 2017, our aim is to acquire 200,000 active users and 10,000 rides/day. Apart from scaling the business, we are also looking at securing Series A funding in the next 3 months.
To experience how GreenPool works, download the app here.