Carpooling at Technopark appears to have been put on a break

Techies in the city are no less wheel-weary than the rest of us what with the regular fuel hikes (or rumours thereof) and the hassle of motoring on increasingly congested roads. Perhaps that’s a reason why many techies are taking to green initiatives in transportation that are easy on the pocket too; the packed line buses to and from Technopark and the increasing numbers signing up for company-organised transportation being prime examples. Then, it’s a wonder why carpooling has not picked up at Technopark as it should have. Apparently, only a fraction of the 40,000 plus employees at Technopark are regular carpoolers.

Carpooling (also called ride-sharing) is a process where two or more people regularly share a ride, usually taking turns to drive on their vehicles. It’s very common among commuters in most metros in most parts of the world and in certain countries there are even dedicated lanes for carpooling on busy routes. “The potential of carpooling is huge. It saves money, is necessary to avoid congestion on the roads and is a solution for the ever-increasing lack of parking facilities at Technopark. It’s also a good way of socialising and at the same time you get the satisfaction of doing your bit for the environment,” says Anoop P. Ambika, secretary, GTech, and chief executive officer of Kreara solutions. “There is undoubtedly some activity on that front here. But why it’s not taken off in a big way is a bit of a conundrum,” he adds.

Sreejith G.S. who works at Nest Technologies agrees. He is one of the few techies who has been “successfully” carpooling for the past two years. He and his colleague and teammate, Pribin, share a ride from Karamana to Technopark on a daily basis.

“The journey takes up to an hour during peak hours and 30-45 minutes during the evenings. We alternate cars on alternate days. Say, if one week I drive on three days and Pribin on two, the next week, he drives on three days and myself on two. By far, the biggest benefit is the cost savings, which is quite significant an amount I must add. Secondly, having someone to share the long ride alleviates boredom and is a kind of stress-buster.”

It’s a thought that is shared by techie Siju Krishnan, who is also employed at Nest. He’s has been a carpooler for the past four years, commuting from Nedumangad to Technopark with four fellow techies, Kiran, Ragesh, Jayesh Kumar and Liju Shankar, all of who work with different companies in Technopark. “The distance is about 25 km and the drive often takes more than an hour in the mornings. At first, we used to commute individually on our bikes. But then it became less and less feasible and we also started developing back pain. Later on, we all brought cars and realised that to drive all the way and back every day was not viable at all. All of us live within two-three km radius of each other and have almost the same work timings. In carpooling, with its economic and practical benefits, we found the best solution to commute,” says Siju.

Carpooling, of course, is not a new idea and Technopark authorities were quick on the uptake when it got to a crunch situation. In fact, they were actually one of the first in the country to address the issue. Back in May 2009, as part of its green computing initiative, GTech, the group of technology companies in Kerala, in partnership with Palnar Transmedia, a Technopark-based software development firm, had started the website, a website dedicated to carpooling and exclusively for those working at Technopark and Infopark in Kochi.

“When the website was started, around 1,000 techies registered for it and once you are registered you keep on getting updates,” says Syed Ibrahim, managing director, Palnar, who conceptualised the website. “To be honest, not a very exciting number are currently using it – perhaps less than 100. That we have a website dedicated to carpooling is something to be proud of. However, the effort seems to have run out of steam. Now that’s a wake-up call, if any!” There are similar forums on other Technopark-related websites too. Some companies such as Allianz also have in-house carpooling forums, which, incidentally, is said to be quite a successful venture. But, elsewhere it appears to be the same sad story.

“Perhaps, the main reason why carpooling is not success could be the difference in work timings,” says Siju. “Sometimes if one of our carpool partners has to work late then we end up having to wait around till he is finished. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. When that happens the rest of us often hang out at the Technopark club or the gym or catch up on pending work. The key to a successful carpool is the willingness to adjust.”