Two friends who shared a room while studying in the US now share a common vision -- to make travelling in urban Indian metros hassle-free. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, the next time you take out your car, check out www.traffline.com first.
The app provides a real-time traffic map with colour-coded lines indicating congestion, slow- and fast-moving traffic with details on traffic jams, road accidents and alternative routes. If you're not comfortable with a smart phone, check out the Traffline website or, alternatively, their helpline before you set out.
A unique service, Traffline was launched by Brijraj Vaghani and Ravi Khemani in Mumbai in 2012 via its parent company Bird's Eye Technology. However, the idea struck them in 2008, when Vaghani and Khemani, both armed with a Master's in Computer Science, were working in the US.
Traffline is a low-cost, real-time traffic monitoring system developed for fast-growing metropolitan cities and is built around its patented algorithms. An easy-to-deploy solution, it specifically addresses the nuances of fast-growing cities with increasing vehicular traffic. At present, live traffic information is available for major roads in Mumbai, Delhi-NCR and Bangalore.
Revving For Launch
Having worked in the IT Industry for nine years, Vaghani was smitten by the entrepreneurial bug. "I had always felt my potential was not fully utilised when working as an employee. I felt that starting something of my own and working on a project as ambitious as Traffline would help me grow as an individual," remarks Vaghani.
The roomies had noticed that people in the West were habituated to looking at traffic information before leaving home in their cars. It made planning travel so much easier. That's when they decided that it was time India was introduced to this concept.
Both Vaghani and Khemani returned to India in 2008 and got to work on their concept. Birds Eye Technology was founded in 2011 and Traffline was launched a year later. "It's is a very broad field, so we needed a product or service as the base before we could become eligible entrants," explains Vaghani.
How It Works
All one needs to do is open the Traffline map and look for information around your current location, and drag the map around to check traffic around the city. You can also check for information along the route from start point to end point, and find the estimated travel time based on current traffic and traffic on different stretches of the road. Besides, you can look up the list of accidents and traffic jams in the city.
Traffline sources its information from moving probes -- taxis, public transport vehicles and others -- that have GPS installed in them. Accident and event-related information is collected from people in the field and Traffline's followers on Twitter who report information voluntarily.
The company has developed a processing engine which also collates, filters and processes the data which it sources from different agencies such as government authorities like the police control room, traffic police, GPS-enabled systems and also from users across social media platforms.
"We are aiming at integrating our product into the daily lives of commuters in a way that eases their daily travel. We are also aspiring to push out traffic alerts to our users on a real-time basis instead of them pulling it out of our application," adds Vaghani.
"You simply have to fill out the ‘auto suggest' form in the Traffline website and you will keep getting information for the route you are using. You can even check for parking space and share traffic information with other Traffline users," he says. Vaghani adds that the USP of the service is that the information is accessible regardless of the medium, via email, SMS, mobile phone and also via a phone helpline which connects with a Traffline call centre.
Vaghani says being selected as a finalist in the Power of Ideas contest and being incubated at IIM-A for 10 days was the turning point for the start-up. When the company launched, receiving live traffic information was a unique offering for Indian commuters.
"We did not have any competition, apart from sporadic traffic information providers such as radio stations which based their information on manual sources placed at limited junctions in a particular city," reveals Vaghani.
The initial capital for the first two years came from the duo's personal savings of Rs 35-40 lakh and by taking up sidebar projects in the IT domain. Since then, the company has received funding from the Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship and Indian Angel Network.
The company is still in investment mode and aims to break even within three years of starting operations. It has been integrating the live traffic feed with industries in the auto, travel and telecommunication sector and has seen recurring revenues. Recently, it introduced a subscription model for commuters where they can receive daily traffic updates via SMS or email for a specific route.
The enterprising duo is still working out a payment model for SMS, where the first month would be free for users but would charge a nominal amount for an annual subscription. However, at this point, the focus is to acquire users, build a service that will be widely used and make a real difference to commuters.
The company is currently receiving 3.5 million data points per day for traffic monitoring and a million traffic requests per week. Its service has been endorsed by the Mumbai, Thane, Bangalore and Pune traffic police.
Traffline has grown from four employees in early 2012 to 20 employees. It has also raised fresh investments from Matrix Partners India in December and aims to expand its services to 10 cities while its user base has increased five fold in the last 12 months.
Given the current user acceptance in the market, Traffline plans to roll out its services for national highways, and Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities in India. Its mobile app has already crossed 1 lakh downloads since its launch early this year. It has also partnered with MapmyIndia for its navigator app Sygic which takes into account traffic conditions from Traffline before suggesting routes. The company plans to integrate its system with other sectors that can use traffic information to improve their operations. Yes, the young Traffline founders are in for a long haul.