HYDERABAD: Almost every citizen in Hyderabad gets involved in an argument with an auto driver at some stage or the other. From what is considered to be a convenient mode of transport, travelling in autos has transformed into a nightmare for commuters, thanks to exorbitant prices charged by the auto-waalahs. Alankrutha Attaluri, a 23-year-old civil servant shares her experience, which speaks for most Hyderabadis. “Not a single auto driver agrees to go as per the meter charges. If they do agree, there is a high possibility that they cheat,” she expresses.
The reason she thinks they cheat is also clear. “I know the rates for regular distances by heart. That’s how often I travel. But, the charges shoot up just like that on the meter,” she exclaims.
After all the time spent on bargaining, commuting in an auto can be a really uncomfortable experience. “From the moment I get into the auto till I reach my destination, I keep thinking of only one thing – why is the meter running so fast?,” she says.
Another thing which irks customers is the fact that auto drivers never have change. “So, I say `80 which is already `20 more than what I have to pay, and with no change, I have to give them `100,” she vents.
However, to address the concerns of commuters and to make their journey hassle free, three city lads – Mohan Kuldeep, Shashank Chintapenta and Harshavardhan – came together to launch AutoHona, which lets you hire an auto with just a phone call.
“Just like auto drivers ask us auto hona?,(if you want an auto), we came up with offering auto services at people’s doorsteps,” says Kuldeep.
How it all started
With an office set up in Panjagutta, their journey began in 2013. “It was after Diwali last year, that we began a survey that fetched us the current database, which has more than 12,500 verified autos associated with us,” informs Kuldeep, a Mathematics graduate, who takes care of the company’s technology and strategy division.
The trio exclaim with a lot of excitement that they are hard-core Hyderabadis and have had their share of experiences with auto drivers in the city and this only helped make the survey as intensive as possible.
“We hired private researchers who went around the city with a form that gives us all the information about auto drivers – from their basic details, to what motivates them, to whether they want to collaborate with us or not,” informs Shashank , who handles finance and operations.
The trio explain that there are three driving points that led them to start AutoHona. “We want to remove the gaps between customers and auto drivers. For instance, if an auto driver takes a route that is congested with traffic, they have to be paid a little more. Most people don’t know that, and they think that they are unnecessarily getting ripped off,” informs Kuldeep. .
Apart from this, they also want to people to understand that auto drivers behave the way they do, because they are frustrated. “Most auto drivers don’t own autos. And they have to spend money on rent and fuel. And the trips that they make do not suffice for this. That’s the main reason why they are so rude and indifferent,” informs Shashank.
This may not be a matter of concern to customers, but sure makes a difference when it comes to settling for a price that satisfies both parties. And finally, a safe trip for all, especially women later in the night is a priority on their agenda.
How it works
With this they set off. And all, or most of the problems faced by Alankrutha and hundreds of others in the city now have a solution – make a phone call, 30 minutes prior to their journey and the rest will be taken care of.
“We have a call centre number where people can contact us and tell us their location and where they want to go. Our customer service will then get back to the caller in 10 minutes,” explains Kuldeep.
The officials have all the necessary details including, a list of auto drivers’ numbers, along with the tariff that is in sync with the government endorsed prices, the distance and the areas that have a traffic congestion in the route, through a self-devised smart algorithm.
“The tariff and traffic congestion details will be shared with the customer along with an auto driver’s phone number. They will then be asked if they would like their number to be shared with the driver and will be done so with their permission,” he elaborates.
However, there will be a slight variation in the tariff depending on where you want to board the auto. “If the auto driver needs to pick you up, a minimum rate of `15 will be charged. If you want to board an auto from a centre in the city, then that extra amount will be omitted,” informs Shashank.
Point out that a number of cab services that are offering a hassle-free journey are increasing, Kuldeep responds, “We are aware of that competition, but the number of people who can afford cabs is lesser compared to autos. You can’t just wipe out that huge a community. And we are just bridging that gap.”
Considering that it has been only a week that they opened their services, the number of bookings are already on a roll. “We thought bulk bookings will come in much later but we already have people booking for months, for a sealed price.
And we already have our list of popular auto drivers,” exclaims Kuldeep. And as far as the auto community is concerned, the numbers that have registered with them, says it all.
So if you want a hassle-free auto ride, call 040 6723 2030, 30 minutes in advance.