Meru success reaffirms IT versatality
December 23, 2007 6:45 PM
The success of Meru, the new call taxi service launched last year by V-Link Taxi Pvt. Ltd, has reaffirmed the belief that IT can be deployed in just about any domain, and can lead to phenomenal gains.
Someone has rightly said, "Technology does not drive change-it enables change." This has been the case with V-Link Taxis Pvt. Ltd. V-Link experienced a transformation in the way it carried out its operations after deploying the GPS-based system to track the newly-launched fleet of cabs called Meru, in Mumbai.
Describing the need for the solution, Nilesh Sangoi, CTO, V-Link, reveals, "In a call-taxi operation, tracking the location of each available taxi is real-time is extremely critical. It would not be possible to scale up beyond 200-300 taxis with manual tracking, with the use of walkie-talkies or mobile phones. Hence we have opted for technology that is scalable for thousands of taxis, and is a highly successful model in countries like Singapore."
For its vehicles, V-Link has deployed different technologies from a number of different firms in India and abroad, including Dubai and Singapore.
"We use high-end GPS and GPRS (general packet radio service) technology in our Maruti Esteem vehicles. The technology has been specially deployed to ensure that passengers receive a timely response and are picked up and dropped at their destinations without any unnecessary delay," reveals Sangoi.
"Our vision is to give urban commuters in India a world-class travelling experience, by using a technology that has evolved in developed countries over the past twenty years," adds Sangoi.
Each Meru is fitted with a GPS-based tracking device that helps in identifying the taxi closest to a customer pick-up location. Customer addresses and other details are communicated back to the chauffeur on the display screen, avoiding the use of outdated radio trunking (walkie-talkie) technology, or the use of a mobile. Each taxi is also fitted with a tamper-proof digital fare meter as per the tariff set by the government. The location information and fare details are continuously being sent back to the control room by each taxi, for tracking purposes. Customers also get a printed receipt of the fare at the end of the trip. Each taxi has a mobile communication terminal (MCT), which has a built-in GPRS receiver, LCD (liquid crystal display) screen and GPRS connectivity, which helps communicate with the control room.
"Our data centre hosts a set of communication servers, application servers, and database servers, which are in constant touch with each taxi through GPRS. The latitude and longitude information is plotted on a GIS (Geographical Information Systems) map for real-time tracking," says Sangoi.
Hail a Meru with ease
The deployed technology enables the customer to book a cab through various media like the telephone, the Internet, or SMS, apart from getting a cab by the kerb. It also helps Meru to locate and send the closest available cab to the customer, thereby reducing the turnaround time for the customer. Says Sangoi, "Our customers in Mumbai can book a modern AC cab either by calling our call centre at 44 22 44 22, by booking online (www.merucabs.com), or by SMSing MERU to 57575. Passengers can hire our cabs for a flag-down charge of Rs. 15, while the per km charge is Rs. 13. Our fares are in compliance with those laid down by the government of Maharashtra. The fare starts from the location of customer pick-up even though the taxi comes from a distant location."
There is also a provision to deal with situations if a passenger leaves any of his belongings in the Meru cab. A passenger can lodge a complaint about the items left behind either by contacting the call center, or filling up the details on our website. The control room then tracks the vehicle and tries to locate the item and return it to the customer as soon as possible.
"Our cabs generally benefit the public at large; any one who looks for a mode of transport that is road-worthy, and at the same time expects value-for money, looks at Meru as a transport option. Recently, our cabs have seen a huge demand from late-night party-goers who avoid driving their own cars and see us as a comfortable transport alternative. Our cabs are also in heavy demand during office hours," reveals Sangoi. After Mumbai, V-Link has plans to launch Meru cabs in other major cities of the country.
V-Link Taxis Pvt. Ltd. is a subsidiary of the V-Link Group, a corporate fleet management services organization that is headquartered in Mumbai, and operates in five major cities - Mumbai, Delhi and NCR, Pune, Bangalore, and Hyderabad. The company manages a fleet of over 1,500 vehicles running an aggregate of more than 150,000 km a day, and transports the employees of some of India's leading companies.
"We have invested heavily in technology to provide best-in-class and highly reliable customer service. The investments are in line with the needs of today's competitive and swift-moving world." concludes Sangoi. In the future too, the organization aims to continuously upgrade its IT infrastructure to keep pace with the times.