There is hardly a city in India where commuters do not complain of autorickshaw drivers overcharging them or taking them along long-winded routes.
Kerala-based Mindhelix Technologies has devised a global positioning system (GPS)-based mobile phone app that not only monitors the route a passenger is being driven along but also calculates the fare.
Tuk Tuk Meter covers 18 cities and has been downloaded 25,000 times since its launch in January, says Christin George, 24, the chief executive of Mindhelix.
The freely available app has a start-stop button displayed on the phone. It calculates the distance travelled, while the autorickshaw rates of various cities come pre-loaded. In case a city is not covered, or the rates change, the applicable rates can be fed in by users.
Click here to listen to Christin George, CEO of Mindhelix Technologies, talk about the idea behind the Tuk Tuk Meter, the problems and the system’s future
“I lived for some time in Bangalore, and saw a lot of this conflict (between commuters and drivers),” says George. “I remember that IT (information technology) professionals once even ran a protest where they decided not to take autorickshaws on a particular day.”
The app, he adds, helps build confidence both ways. “A lot of auto drivers I personally know are fair people. That is what inspired me to create the Tuk Tuk Meter.”
After graduating from the College of Engineering at Chengannur in Kerala, George decided not to join a company but do something of his own.
He launched Mindhelix in December as a limited liability partnership company along with five friends.
The enterprise was self-funded initially. “We just did some freelance programming and put together our own money—about Rs 3.5 lakh,” George says. The Kerala government then pitched in with Rs 2.5 lakh.
Mindhelix now earns Rs 1.2 lakh per month doing application work for other companies, he says.
Tuk Tuk Meter’s first version ran on the Samsung Bada operating system, BlackBerry and Android.
A second version with GPS maps, launched this month, operates on Android; the team is working to make it compatible with Nokia Symbian as well.
George is in talks with potential advertisers to monetize the app.
“We want to do location-based advertising,” he says. That means, if a passenger is passing by shopping areas such as Nehru Place in New Delhi, M.G. Road in Bangalore or Nariman Point in Mumbai, the ads for stores, restaurants and other businesses in the area can pop up on the mobile phone.
Mindhelix is also working on a mobile security app, but George did not divulge its details.