Society

Drive around, park in peace

Amith Sasi   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Amith Sasi’s weekend trips into the city with his father-in-law involved leaving their car near the Vyttila Mobility Hub and taking an autorickshaw to their destination. The reason for this being the lack of convenient parking spaces inside the city, with narrow roads and Metro Rail construction adding to the chaos. “That’s when I began considering developing an application to pinpoint available parking lots in different parts of the city,” says the 32-year-old, who hails from Vadakara in Kozhikode.

Once he struck upon the idea, he contacted some friends and found out that such applications were popular abroad, leading him to develop Pin N Park, a website that lists available parking slots and allows users to book them in advance. “The main problem is not a lack of parking lots, but that people are unaware of their existence, and park on the roads while existing facilities remain underutilised,” says Amith, who works as a consultant for electronics manufacturing company Souriau. With the help of his wife and a couple of friends, he learnt the nuances of app development and ported the web interface to an android app of the same name, which is now available on the Play Store.

The portal launched in October, and Amith and team convinced land owners near the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to temporarily repurpose their unused plots as parking lots to accommodate the rush during ISL matches. This has been the philosophy behind Pin N Park ever since, with Amith speaking to parking lot owners to register themselves on the website, and make the information available to the public. Now, users can search for parking spaces in the area they plan to visit, book a slot, and pay upon arrival.

It has not always been easy, but the support from his wife and friends, and the Amrita Technology Business Incubator, has helped him generate leads and identify potential opportunities. Refining the payment system is what Amith has his sights set on now. “Since payment on-site can be a hassle, we’ve tied up with PayUmoney to create a gateway that lets users make the payment at the time of booking itself. That system will most likely be ready for operation around Christmas.”

While the site currently has over 200 parking slots available in various parts of Kochi, Amith wants to increase numbers by allowing anyone to offer unused parking. “We provide options for daily and monthly booking, depending on the owner’s preferences, and even individuals with parking facility at their house can register with us. Another idea is to use the grounds of institutions like churches and colleges, which can accommodate many vehicles. In case these facilities are required by the owners on special occasions, they can choose to take them offline at their convenience,” he explains.

The main challenge he faces is proximity, with the nearest site available near the Infopark being around a kilometre away. “We have plans to tackle such issues, and are in talks to offer a pickup and drop facility to and from parking lot to Infopark in the morning and evening. We will also provide car wash and eco-toilet services at the larger parking lots.” In order to aid individuals who offer their parking spaces, Amith and team plan to incorporate low-energy Bluetooth technology, which automatically recognises when the slot is filled or vacated and updates the website accordingly.

Based on how well Pin N Park is received, Amith plans to extend the service to Thiruvananthapuram and his hometown Kozhikode. “I want to deal with the logistics and understand potential problems before venturing out of Kochi. That way, I’ll be better prepared to deal with new challenges. For now, the goal is to help reduce the congestion in the city and help people park their cars safely.”

If Amith’s plans to provide convenient, standardised parking facilities pay off, a lot of people like his father-in-law can finally navigate their vehicles into the roads of the city with peace of mind.

To avail of the parking slot booking facility, visit www.pinnpark.com or download the Pin N Park application from the Google Play store. A version of the application for iOS devices is in the works and slated for launch by February.

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Printable version | Oct 31, 2020 10:51:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/drive-around-park-in-peace/article8008428.ece

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