New-age fix for the hoary bus ticketing business

Bangalore: Twenty-eight year old Phanindra Sama has a simple business model to offer: his firm allows customers to book tickets on bus journeys, criss-crossing the country. Online.

New take: RedBus’ chief executive officer Phanindra Sama.

Once you log into the website, you can choose tickets in 15 states, across 4,000 routes, through a network of 300 bus operators.

The service, says chief executive Sama, aims to offer not just the routes a customer wants to travel on, but also the kind of bus he or she wants to take. It allows passengers to choose seats as well.

To make it easier for bus operators to go online, RedBus offers them a technology platform. This, however, is not a condition for the operators as most of them do not have computers in their offices, relying instead on paper-based booking systems. Fourteen bus operators, who have a direct integration with the RedBus system, pay Rs30,000 to Rs40,000 as a one time fee for 10 buses.

Working on the system of advance booking, RedBus blocks 10 to 15 seats in all buses for itself and partners, such as and, till an hour before the departure time. RedBus makes its money from the commission it earns on each ticket—Rs30 to Rs40.

The firm’s ambition: dominate the Rs10,000 crore bus tickets market.

Sama says though anyone can enter this segment, it will not be easy for the new players to find inventory and scale up. (Deepti Chaudhary)

Endowing low-end cellphones with new, rich features

Mumbai: Location-based services, map navigation and rich graphic SMSs on the mobile may conjure up images of sleek, high-end handsets. But Bangalore-based Mango Technologies Pvt. Ltd is working to make all these and more rich features available on low-end, low-cost mobile phones.

Mango works directly with handset makers such as Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd, mobile chipset makers such as Texas Instruments Inc. and Qualcomm Inc. among others to embed a thin software layer in the phone before it reaches the end user.

Its technology enables a number of functionalities on a basic device—music management with multimedia capabilities, map navigation using location detection on operator networks and a mobile advertising layer that does not require mobile Internet.

Mango, which customizes handsets sold bundled with airtime, believes its addressable market is the bottom 50% of the global handset market—about 600 million devices a year (including Chinese phone firms, with which it has contracts).

In India, the company estimates six out of 10 handsets (a total of 70 million were sold here last year) are priced in the low to mid-range.

The two-year-old firm was incubated by a centre by an Infosys Technologies Ltd founder (N.S. Raghavan) at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, and received seed capital from Ojas Venture Partners earlier this year.

Part of the funding, according to Mango co-founder Sunil Maheshwari, will go to acquire a Jaipur unit of a Japanese embedded solutions company, which he declined to name.

Privately-held Mango, which makes its revenues by licensing its software to telecom players and charging royalties per device, had revenues between Rs50 lakh and Rs1 crore in 2007.

“Middleware for mobile phones is needed, but it’s a few cents a handset business. It might be interesting to see what other revenue opportunities besides software licensing can they tap into," says Alok Mittal, managing director, Canaan Partners India. (Namitha Jagadeesh)