Q1. What was the trigger to start India’s first marketplace for driving schools and how is it evolving?
Mahesh: After moving back from the US, I began to search for a decent driving school, only to find that while driving schools were aplenty, they were all far from decent! The problems ranged from instructors themselves not knowing the best driving practices to having to visit driving schools multiple times for every little formality. Reliability of services was also a big question. I started discussing all these with my friends and realised that almost everybody was unsatisfied with the kind of quality being delivered, especially for such an important service like driving training. And that was the a-ha moment where the bulb in my mind lit up!
The business has evolved as we attempted to create a big transformation and, so far, we have done excellent work with regards to establishing trust, increasing reliability, and addressing issues that customers would otherwise face. We’ve been very agile right from the beginning — we launched static pages quickly and started taking bookings using spreadsheets. Our success stems from the fact that we listen to our customers to serve their needs. Though we started only with four wheeler training, Drivekool today also provides two wheeler training and RTO services. And this is just the beginning of our journey.
Q2. How are you simplifying the interactions between citizens and the RTO office? How much of these workflows will be completely moved online in the near future?
Mahesh: Drivekool has simplified the workflows and addressed customer pain points, thanks to a combination of improved processes and a robust technology platform. We have reduced the number of round-trips a customer has to make to an agent’s office or the RTO, a process that is not only very tedious but also time-consuming. What’s more, for some services, the customer need not even have to step out of his home to get the service — that’s the kind of transformation we have effected.
Our aim is to work with the Government and take all the workflows online, to bring in the much-needed efficiency in the system. Some notable improvements we’ve made in our system include not needing to submit documents physically, launching the road tax calculator for anybody to calculate tentative amount to pay, and delivering documents at the customer’s doorstep. We’ve also facilitated instant communication using various channels such as email, SMS, and Whatsapp. At a larger level, I would like to see sweeping changes in the system backed by strong technology, very much similar to how IRCTC has transformed the way we book train tickets today.
Q3. In addition to core business, what is the social impact Drivekool can make in the country?
Mahesh: Firstly, I’d like to highlight numbers we should certainly not be proud of. There is a road accident every minute; every 4th minute we are losing a life. Our honourable Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi is also very concerned about losing our precious lives in road accidents. As per reports, India loses about USD 20+ billion dollars a year and that’s huge for a nation like ours. We see a huge opportunity to improve the quality of driving training to reduce such awful statistics. As I mentioned before, many times the driving instructors themselves don’t know the best driving practices. Hence, every time they train someone, there is a high probability of one more dangerous driver being added on the road.
Q4. Is this really a large market to address?
Mahesh: We began Drivekool with the sole intent of solving a genuine problem. Honestly, we never concerned ourselves with the market size. Having said that, being in the market for close to 2 years now, we’ve figured out that the greater the problem, the greater the opportunity to address it. We are literally solving a very big problem i.e. reducing road accident deaths and providing hassle-free citizen services to consumers. Speaking about the market size — this is indeed a multi-billion-dollar market, and we have validated this with the data received from an RTI query and other reports. I would like to cite the example of Dominic Barton, MD McKinsey & Co, who sized up the cellphone market incorrectly to give a sense of how wrong one could go on sizing the market. He said, “McKinsey is the firm that also predicted in 1991 that the total demand for cell phones will not be more than 75,000.”
Q5. Are you funded or looking for funding?
Mahesh: We have raised seed funding from our friends and family members. Our primary focus is to go deep in order to understand the market in a much broader way and to build a strong foundation, rather spending too much time chasing money. However, we are in discussion with some really good investors (we call them our mentors), who have a great sense of understanding of the complexity of the system and the potential scale of this business.