interviews

Transportation startup WhistleDrive Plans to Expand Pan India in Next 2 Years

Today transportation startup WhistleDrive is spearheading a revolution that is seeking to bring unparalleled joy in the lives of thousands of employees.  It obviously does this by easing their transportation hassles – helping employees to seamlessly commute to and from their workplace.

Whistledrive

Whistledrive

WhistleDrive actually defines itself as a Transportation As A Service (TaaS) startup. Today ranked among prominent transportation startups in India, this Hyderabad based company offers fleet of Cabs & Bus Shuttles, End to End Technology and Ground Operations to make Office Commute safe and fully efficient.

Today this Hyderabad based company serves 32 clients including some of the big corporates and clocks 3500 trips a day as well as 1,00,000 trips every month. It currently serves Hyderabad, Bengaluru & Chennai and is eyeing rapid expansion in the coming months.

The company’s solid traction recently helped in garnering 72 crores series B funding round from Chicago-based Colosseum Group. Its recent inclusion in the list of ‘The 50 Emerging Startups in India- 2019’ by Business Connect Magazine added another feather in startup’s cap.

Techpluto caught up with WhistleDrive’s founder and CEO Rakesh Munnanooru in an exclusive interview. Touching on wide range of issues, Munnanooru sheds light on many important aspects of his young company.

Q) How and when did the idea of starting an employee transportation company came to you?

In 2015, location-based services were taking over the market and I really wanted to be part of the wave and solve a critical problem with real-time location sharing technology. From personal experience and a bit of on-field research, I quickly realised that there is a considerable market for car driver services. We built an end to end solution for the problem and the customer adoption was very encouraging and we quickly grew in numbers.

In time, we realised that the same technology can help manage corporate employee transportation and did a pilot run. It was a massive success and we soon started providing fleet services along with the software solution.

Q) Any major challenges you faced in the initial years while building this young company that eventually tested your entrepreneurial skills to the core?

We started with Driver on-demand services for car owners and did a dry run for about 8 months. It took aWhile for us to understand the market expectations and communicate with our partner drivers efficiently. We realized the need for a strong structure and adopted a process-driven approach which helped us grow by 5x in 3 months. We realized the same technology can be applied for corporate employee transportation and piloted with a B2B client and It was a massive success.

We understood that the DNA of B2C and B2B business is the same but it’s just the scale that’s different and started approaching new clients. We got incubated by Chicago based Colosseum Group in October at their office in Hyderabad. We scaled significantly and landed 4 huge volume clients by February 2018 and raised Series-A funding of Rs.5 Crore from Colosseum Group in April 2018. T Hub, Hyderabad based India’s largest start-up incubator selected us for their flagship Lab 32 Program in the transportation space in May 2018.

All it took us is, understanding the opportunities in Employee Transportation and applying the same in that scale.

And it took a little while for us to adapt to Employee Transportation, and later we took off with the hybrid fleet model (Partnered cabs + WhistleDrive owned cabs) which has given us more stability in operations.

Q) WhistleDrive is expected to go for aggressive expansion following the recent series B funding round. Can you please elaborate on your future expansion plans?

We are aggressively scaling vertically and horizontally and we are looking to operate PAN India in the coming 2 years.

We are planning to use the latest investments in scaling the operations and product improvement.

Q) Can you please shed some of the WhistleDrive’s top features that help in making employee transportation an hassle-free experience?

With our “Transportation As A Service” (TaaS) model, we provide services such as Rostering, Route Planning, Vendor allocation (if there are multiple vendors), Cab Assignment, Weekly & Monthly Reports, and Detailed Billings. The management team can have an eagle view of all the trips being carried out on a day at any given time and its live locations.

If there are any changes in their shift timings, the employees can schedule their cabs from our Employee App with just a few clicks. All our cabs are smartphone-enabled and our applications are built with the advanced live location tracking features, which will help the employees to plan and track their journey.

Here is clear information on WhistleTech Software making the process seamless.

With the help of software, we can have a holistic view of the entire operations flow.
And interestingly, we get alerts for any of the important metrics like cab delay, cab over speeding, cabs away from the network, if any cab is crossing the geo-fence and other metrics.
And every alert will be shown on the live tracking dashboard and so that the transportation team can take swift action.

And in an employee app, apart from the live tracking, SOS is a feature that is specially integrated for women’s safety. When they feel unsafe/ uncomfortable in the cab, they can tap on the SOS button and it immediately sends an alert to the client-side transportation team, our team and a message will be sent to their emergency contacts along with the tracking link. This feature makes employees and clients feel safer.

And to safeguard employee privacy, all the calls that go to and fro between employees and drivers are number masked. There would be a bridge number that connects both sides.

Since the whole process has no human intervention to manipulate the data and blockchain secures the data, the billing is totally accurate and clients can view the entire activity anytime they want, for a proof check.

Q) Over the years, Safety has emerged as a major issue for transportation companies. Can you please tell us what are some of the safety measures that your company has taken?

Employee Safety is the top most priority for us. And corporates also have a very critical eye on it.

Operationally, We ensure that
– All our cabs and drivers undergo a stringent 3-layer verification process before onboarding (including Police Verification certificate
– All cabs are fit and have first aid medical kit, fire extinguishers, umbrella, torchlight, tool kit etc for employee safety.
– Our compliance and EHS teams are on duty to check the documents and also verify, do surprise alcohol checks and more.

Technologically, our application will help with

Number Masking: mask the employee mobile numbers while contacting the drivers through application.
– Live Location Sharing: enable employees to share their live location with their family members and friends.
SOS button: Use the SOS button in case of emergencies, which alerts the transportation teams, WhistleDrive team and their emergency contacts with the live location tracking link- Command Centre: The Clients can have an eagle eye view and can track all the trips along with their live location stats.

Q) Any plans to foray into international markets in the near future?

For now, We have plans to scale India wide only.
But we are also hearing a huge amount of interest in the software from the middle-east.

Q) Your thoughts on WhistleDrive’s competitors and what makes your company stand out in this highly competitive industry?

There are only a few players in the market who are providing an integrated solution (fleet + Software). What makes us stand out is our operations style.

we provide fleet and technology as an add-on. So we understand the real ground challenges and this eventually helps the technology team to develop solution-oriented product. And with the advantage of the Whistle Tech Software, our on-ground operation teams are much more efficient in overall transportation management.

And our development team is always working to make the transportation experience more seamless, reliable, and transparent for all stakeholders involved.

And the next big competitive edge we have over our competitors is the operations compliance, safety measures, and 24×7 support team.

We are committed to going that extra mile to make the transportation process more efficient. Be it providing an on-ground support team, advanced technology features, and Helpline team.

Q) Where do you see WhistleDrive 2-3 years from now. Is the company dreaming to become the Uber and Ola in the B2B transportation space in the coming years?

We are aggressively scaling vertically and horizontally and we are looking to operate PAN India in the coming 2 years.
And the possibilities for employee transportation are also proportionally huge.

Since the entire industry is moving towards technology and data-driven processes for efficient and transparent employee transportation, the next 2 years is going to be a transition period for all the existing corporate companies to adopt software into their system. And soon we will see fleet + software becoming a default in the entire employee transportation.

Thanks to the state and central governments for pushing more for electric cars into the market. There is a huge revolution that is taking its baby steps in terms. It is coming into the market faster than expected. They will slowly replace the existing diesel vehicles.

The scale of Uber or Ola is of course inspiring and Just like how they disrupted the B2C markets with the formula of fleet + software, the corporate industry is also expecting the same formula and that’s exactly where WhistleDrive fits in. TaaS is THE Solution for them.

Q) Lastly, any advice you’d like to offer to all the budding as well as young professional entrepreneurs out there?

My mentor Shailu said one thing to me and it made a mark in the way I do things. He says “Live full or why bother”. I would advise the same to the young entrepreneurs.

And my personal advice would be,

Be extremely curious. That’s how you learn things.

Be the energy tank that keeps the team pushing their limits.

Look at the opportunities ahead of time (in the long term). As a leader, you should have a clear purpose and the long term vision to drive the rest.

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