Keeping Track Of Costs And Cabs
December 6, 2007 5:52 PM
Trying to reach your chauffeur? Well, he is not available on the walkie talkie or the mobile phone you so thoughtfully out in his hand. You are clueless about his whereabouts and curse under your breath because there's your valued customer, impatiently waiting in front of you and probably thinking this would be the last time he would seek your services. This situation is not unique to any particular business. In fact, many businesses have to go through the same rigmarole daily, for lack of the real-time knowledge of your vehicles activities; wouldn't it improve your level of service? This simple knowledge will also go a long way in enhancing your value in the eyes of your customers and translate into higher profits through better fleet management.
Vehicle tracking has also assumed immense importance in urban India, in view of the graveyard shift culture ushered by upcoming BPOs. Several incidents involving call centre cab services have put the spotlight on the need for foolproof security in this sector. Add to it, the growing tourism industry, and the need for tracking systems in the cab services for safety of foreign tourists and local commuters is apparent.
In the line with this global need, V-Link Fleet Services has recently introduced its Meru Taxis equipped with GPS and GPRS enabled real-time location of the vehicles. Though, radio taxis are still in the nascent stage in India, the idea is to make it as easy as ordering a home delivered pizza!
"Our vision is to provide a world-class traveling experience to urban Indian commuters. For this, we have employed technology developed in the advanced countries over the last 20 years," says Nilesh sangoi, CTO of Meru Taxis. Each taxi is fitted with an MCT (Mobile Communication Terminal) box that facilitates communication between the particular call-centre and the chauffeur. It has a GPS receiver and a display with GPRS connectivity that flashes the exact location. Information is continuously exchanged between the control room and the chauffeur.
This GPS based tracking device helps in identifying the real-time location of the taxi, leaving no room for tardy picking up or dropping of passengers. The device enables you to keep track of the taxi's movement and with your eye literally on the taxi's meter, you can control your fleet. The digital, tamper-proof fare meter connected to the on-board printer gives out a printed receipt at the end of the trip. And, while the taxi is on the move, the location and fare information are continuously replayed to the control room.
With V-Link services, rest assured that the bag you left behind in the cab while hurriedly disembarking, is safe and sound. V-Link offers a lost-and-found service enabling customers to locate their belongings, inadvertently left behind in a cab. " A passenger can lodge a complaint about the items left behind, either by calling the call centre or filling up the details in our website. The control room then tracks the vehicle for the lost item and returns it to the customer, if found," explains Sangoi. All a passenger needs to do is provide information related to the date of travel, time and location, along with the number of the particular cab, to avail of this service. Each Meru taxi also has a 'panic button' that allows the passenger or the chauffeur to contact the control room in case of an emergency.
Meru taxis began operations in Mumbai in April this year, with a fleet of 150 cabs. It caters to 400 bookings per day and plans to scale up its business to 1000 cabs by the year end. "in a call-taxi operation real-time tracking is extremely critical. With walkie-talkies, it is not possible to scale up beyond 200-300 taxis. Hence, we opted for technology that is scalable to thousands of taxis," says Sangoi.
"We purchased different technology from a number of firms in India and abroad, including Dubai and Singapore," informs Sangoi. This was then incorporated in the Meru system. However, Sangoi refrains from going into further details or revealing the name of the implementing agency.
You can hire a Meru at a flag down charge of Rs 15 with Rs 13 being added for each subsequent km. The fare is compliance with Government of Maharashtra's fare rules. The meter reading too starts from the customer's pick-up location. The affordable fare structure has put these taxis within reach of even ordinary commuters, claims Sangoi. "Recently, there has been a surge in demand for our taxis by late-night party hoppers. Meru taxis are being perceived as a safe, viable and comfortable transport alternative to driving late knight, by this group." says Sangoi.
It was in August 2006, when the government invited private players under its Luxury Fleet Taxi Scheme, that V-Link Fleet Services came up with this unique concept of Meru taxis. With Mumbai under its wings, V-Link now plans to spread out of Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Pune, Bangalore, Hyedrabad and Chandigarh. These swanky and safe cabs seem set to soon conquer the roads of the country.
So the next time you hail a taxi, do ensure you have thumbed down the safe Meru!
The nitty gritty...
Let's presume you need a taxi from Palam Airport in Delhi, to the Taj Hotel, you dial the call centre number and give them the pick up and drop address. The call centre will relay this address to the taxis in the particular area. The data-centre hosts a set of communication servers that re in constant touch with the taxis through GPRS. All the taxis are equipped, with a MCT (Mobile Communication Terminal) box and a LCD display. The address will flash on these screens. Depending on their vehicle's availability, chauffeurs will click 'YES' or 'NO' on the screen. This message will be relayed to the data-centre and other taxis in the area. The particular chauffeur who has sent a 'YES', then goes ahead with the task. With GPS mapping of the location on the screen in real-time, the chauffeur drops you at the desired address without taking you for a ride, literally. The MCT box also has 'HELP' and 'CALL' buttons that the chauffeurs can use in case they need assistance. At the end of the trip, a printed receipt of the fare is handed over to the passenger.
Falcon-i is another fleet management service based on the GSM (global system for mobile communications) tracking system to keep tabs on the movement of vehicles and goods in real-time. Developed by American Megatrends India Pvt. Ltd.(AMI), it is a system applicable to both goods carrier services as well as taxis.
Falcon-I assists owners in reducing the 'idle' time of the vehicles and planning out work schedules to serve customers better. Apart from this, its geo-fencing facility provides more control over vehicles, by restricting them from going on a different route or beyond prescribed limits.
The system monitors the details of the vehicle like location, speed, fuel, along with health parameters like engine status, temperature, battery, etc. from a remote location.