findauto.in also has an Android application

G. Madhavan Nair, the former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), recollected the lengths he and a group of friends went to for a final-year project at college. They scoured the city and beyond for components, without any technical help, and the project finally came together in time for the College Day.

This was during the 1960s at the College of Engineering Thiruvananthapuram (CET), and Mr. Nair joked about how the group still had not been sanctioned the Rs.200 they were supposed to get from the administration for the project.

Speaking during the inauguration of a novel initiative called findauto.in on Saturday, he said that things were very different now, with educational institutions and organisations such as the Startup Village and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Kerala Section encouraging students to be creative and come up with ideas that can be turned into viable businesses.

findauto.in comes as a welcome technology for a vast majority of commuters in the city. The start-up is the brainchild of nine students of the CET, bridging the gap between a stranded commuter and an autorickshaw driver waiting for passengers.

The method to virtually hail an autorickshaw is simple. A text message must be sent to 9266680802 in the format, FAUTO <starting point> * <destination>.

300 drivers

Autorickshaw drivers nearest to that location are alerted and if one of them is available, a text message containing his number is relayed to the customer who can call him and arrange for the pick-up. The findauto.in website and Android application can also be used to hail an autorickshaw. So far, the service has managed to identify 300 drivers to be part of the project. A feedback option is also being incorporated into the service.

“Depending on how well it fares in the capital city, we plan to expand the service to the rest of the State within months. We also plan on graduating to a call-based service,” said R. Rahul, a member of the findauto.in team.

Mr. Nair said that though the placement rates at the CET were high, it was far better to create a business that could potentially grant employment to many others.

He also stressed on the importance of Indian firms developing own software — citing the example of certain technologies used for the Chandrayaan mission. “It was scientists from the VSSC who developed it and the fact that it was successful is testimony to how we do not need to rely on foreign imports,” he said.

Actor Maniyanpilla Raju, whose presence was appropriate considering the role of an autorickshaw driver he played in the film Aye Auto, unveiled the logo.

Also present was IEEE Kerala Chair Srinivasan Ravindran, who said that the trend was shifting towards the development of ‘humanitarian technologies’ that would address everyday needs and concerns.