MapmyIndia's Move app takes a unique social approach to make roads, cities & country safer: Rohan Verma
The MapmyIndia CEO shares how the Move app can help electric vehicles users at a hyper, local level.
Hitesh: The de-facto navigation app for millions of users in India is Google Maps (Google has an estimated 300mn users in India out of the total 500mn online smartphone users). Why compete in this space? Why not just focus on the B2B and B2B2C segments?
Rohan: MapmyIndia has proved the value, comprehensives and unique capabilities of its map data, map APIs, IoT devices, navigation, Telematics, GIS, analytics & mobility solutions in the B2B and B2B2C space. We have been experiencing strong profitable growth year on year for the last 25 years through our 5000+ enterprise customers across automotive, government, corporate, tech developer and fleet/logistics sectors.
But our mission and vision is much larger - we want to bring the benefits of maps, location technologies and IoT to everyone, and we want to make the world better through our unique data and technology expertise. Our passion and ambition means necessarily that we offer to consumers our products and services as well, so that we can directly impact millions and hopefully, billions of their lives for the better.
We feel that we have a deep understanding of India not just her geographic contours but her people, dialects, languages and sensitivities (social, regulatory and much more). This enables us to offer our users an option that is highly localised, best in class, made in India and made for India.
Hitesh: Your competing maps/navigation app is MapmyIndia Move. What can Move Maps do that Google maps cannot?
Rohan: Move app users can navigate exactly to the doorstep of their destination - house address or building - we have connected the last mile, while other map apps, mostly can’t navigate to the exact address. The user still has to ask or look around once she reaches a location. But that’s not the case with MapmyIndia Move, say you want to reach S360, Greater Kailash II; the app will take you to the exact doorstep. This is possible because it is powered by MapmyIndia maps, which are much more detailed, comprehensive and precise. So not just does Move app offer all the same features like voice navigation, live traffic updates, searching stores and places nearby etc. as other map apps do, but the user also gets unparalleled accuracy and precision.
The Move app enables you to remotely track and monitor the locations of your vehicles and loved ones, while being updated on the vehicle health, misuse and any unsafe driving behaviour. With Move app you can do much more than just live location sharing, it allows you to integrate all Move IoT devices, within this single app. MapmyIndia provides IoT devices called Move Devices which can be plugged in or installed in all your vehicles and these send back information about the location, movement, health and driver behaviour of your vehicles to your Move app, regardless of where you are vis-a-vis your vehicle.
Move app takes a unique social/community approach to make our roads, neighbourhood, cities and country safer and better. Move allows users to see and report hyper local issues pinpointed to specific locations - for example, where traffic jams, potholes, water logging, fire burning, garbage dumps, broken street lights, unsafe areas, accidents and crimes have happened etc. - this allows you as a user to know about and avoid such unsafe areas or routes. At once the Move app keeps you safe, and assists the concerned authorities in the upkeep of roads/ neighbourhoods / cities etc. We moderate the user contributed information and also combine it with analytics from IoT sensors placed in vehicles and across the country and partner with government authorities to improve reliability and responsiveness.
Finally, Move app has some cool features such as Augmented Reality wherein users can point the camera in any direction and see places and destinations through the lens of the camera making it easier to discover cool places nearby and walk to them easily.
Hitesh: Google Maps has a head start since it's already built into Android phones (which make up the vast majority of smartphones sold in India). Is that an unfair advantage? Do you also plan to try and get Move pre-installed on some devices? If not, how can you prompt/incentivise users to download and use it?
Rohan: Definitely being pre-installed in the device is a big advantage. I would not like to go into the fairness or the unfairness of it – that is for the policymakers and the markets to decide. But for us it is a non-level playing field. But not all popular apps are pre-loaded on smartphones, the adoption takes time but users eventually gravitate to it of the product is good.
We are confident about the quality of the Move app and the following initiatives by us and some key factors will help us onboard more users:
1. Across all app categories viz. e-commerce, food delivery, video streaming etc. users subscribe to at least two apps. We are sure that Move app offers a great alternative and ensures that they always find and reach their destination conveniently. Add to this MapmyIndia Move app offers many advantages over other similar apps, as described earlier. For many users like vehicle owners, people who travel to new places often, and those who care to make our country better, Move app is a better choice.
2. MapmyIndia Move is an indigenously developed app by an Indian company. We understand as no one else just for the reason that we are Indians. The sensitivities, the local flavor, the diversity, the geography etc. are built into the MapmyIndia value system and therefore is an essential part of each of our offerings. I feel that both as a nation and as an individual, we must encourage indigenous alternatives.
Hitesh: There is a big push towards electric vehicles (Hyundai has launched Kona, more to come). What are the challenges that EV users could face in India and can MapmyIndia do something to help? Also, given that EV charging points are going to be scarce for some time, how can a user alleviate battery life/range anxiety?
Rohan: The main challenges or questions prospective EV users need addressed before EV becomes reality in India are the following:
1) Where can I get my vehicle charged?
2) Range anxiety - Will I reach my destination before the battery runs out?
3) Upfront costs - Are EVs really economical as compared to internal combustion engines?
MapmyIndia’s Smart Mobility Platform, consisting of our map data, software technologies and IOT devices customised for electric mobility, helps solve all these challenges for EV users and the other stakeholders in the ecosystem:
1. Selecting the best locations for charging station: MapmyIndia’s hyper local map and geo-demographic data and analytics solutions help charge station operators and infrastructure developers understand exactly at which locations across cities and highways the demand and feasibility of charge stations would best. This will help an efficient and ROI driven roll out of charge stations, and ensure that the charge stations are conveniently located vis-a-vis where EV users live, work and drive through.
Moreover we continuously collect information about existing or newly opened charge stations and connect them to our maps & mobility platform and Move app. EV users can find charge stations nearby or along their route, and also check availability/reserve a charging session/pre-pay etc. In this way we hope to address the charge station chicken and egg issue holding EVs back.
2. Addressing the range anxiety: EVs are powered by batteries, with limited range as compared to petrol/diesel vehicles. Hence EV users are more anxious about the range i.e. the number of kilometres the EV can go before the battery runs down. Basic EVs show one kilometre number or percentage battery remaining to the user. This is not accurate or even relevant because depending on which direction or destination the user is driving, and the manner in which the user drives the vehicles, the traffic and weather and terrain conditions etc. will decide the distance the user can cover with the remaining charge. MapmyIndia maps/solutions incorporate all such data and analytics to calculate EV’s range in each, while taking different routes. The user gets directions and routes in form of a spider map, which tells the users more accurately whether they will reach their destination or not. It also suggests the most battery efficient route, and charge stations along the route in case reaching the destination is not possible without recharging.
The users therefore, will be more amenable to buying electric vehicles with MapmyIndia’s battery efficient navigation and spider maps technologies embedded in the vehicles.
3. Mitigating the high-cost factor: It is a constant retort that the battery costs are high and an EV battery is equivalent to 3-4 years fuel pre-filled. From an upfront cost perspective, this makes outright buying an EV (with built-in battery) challenging. EV sharing/battery sharing, swapping or leasing and other innovative (like SaaS) business models are required that charge users per kilometer so that they don’t feel pinch of the cost. To make these sharing models viable and operationally feasible where a fleet or battery owner is essentially renting out his expensive asset to users who pay per use, MapmyIndia’s IOT Solutions really help. Our IoT Solutions can be installed and embedded directly inside the vehicle or even battery, and help the fleet or battery owner monitor location and diagnostic information of their EVs and battery assets which are moving around in the field. They can even remotely immobilize the vehicle or battery in case of theft or non-payment. Through these technology solutions we are enabling mobility as a service and a shared ecosystem, which is a win-win for all.
Hitesh: Would MapmyIndia's solution be available as a retrofit for existing EVs?
Rohan: Many parts of our Electric Mobility platform like Move app, Move Devices and EV navigation & Telematics solutions are available to consumers, fleet owners and charge station operators directly. Vehicle manufacturers and charge station infrastructure providers can embed MapmyIndia technologies to offer a better, more value-added and differentiated experience to their consumers.
Hitesh: Some vehicles with built in maps and navigation systems also use that data to provide 'driver assistance' such as lane departure and collision warnings. Can Move step up to this task?
Rohan: Yes, Move app, MapmyIndia’s maps and driving assistance technologies can help prevent road accidents and improve safety for pedestrians, passengers and drivers in a big way. Simply put in the move app and our next-generation navigation systems we alert drivers not just when they should turn next towards their destination but also when there is a safety hazard, up ahead. This advance warning, aids them to take preventive action immediately. We create and publish these safety alerts to the move app and navigation systems in a few ways viz. (1) by analysing the road geometry, design and conditions across India - things such as sharp turns, blind curves, encroachments, potholes or broken roads etc.; (2) by analysing and aggregating IOT information coming from devices and sensors installed in vehicles to understand hot spots where over-speeding or harsh braking or other unsafe driving patterns recur and cluster them based on time and location, to come up with real-time safety alerts - similar to how we publish live traffic alerts to users: and (3) Move app users can report road safety or road condition issues such as accident or traffic jam or unlit roads or broken roads etc. at a hyper local level which MapmyIndia’s multi-disciplinary team moderates and publishes this information on its platforms and everyone benefits. In this way, we help users directly and can also work with the road and transport authorities to fix issues helping improve mobility and road safety.
Hitesh: What kind of maps do self driving cars need? How are these different than the usual maps on our phones and can MapmyIndia provide these? Finally, how far away are we from seeing an actual autonomous vehicle on Indian roads?
Rohan: Self-driving cars need ‘High Definition’ (HD) maps that are ‘machine-readable’ whereas usual maps on phones are ‘Standard Definition’ (SD) Maps that are only human-readable. MapmyIndia builds extremely high resolution HD maps, that contain much more granular data about the roads, in full 3D, and tags all possible static and dynamic obstacles while the vehicle is driving enabling the vehicle to plan and drive along a short-term path (next few meters to hundreds of meters) avoiding any obstacles like the edge of the road, encroachments, other vehicles or pedestrians or stray animals, objects etc. They also allow the charting of the long-term route (that could be hundreds of kilometers away) and get the vehicle to its destination. In India, we think the best use of our high-tech HD maps technologies is to increase safety and to help cars with our technologies built-in to take over from the human driver in case there is an imminent danger of collision and if the driver hasn’t reacted or is distracted. We are trying to encourage the vehicle manufacturers to bring this important technology to Indian roads, because we are ready to support. Let’s hope it doesn’t take too long!