Cities

On a 54-day all-India tour with one machine and two messages 

Sourabh Kumar (center) and the motorcyclists

Sourabh Kumar (center) and the motorcyclists

Sourabh Kumar celebrated his 31st birthday on February 7 on the road. At present, the social startup PotHoleRaja that he is part of, is on a tour of Indian cities to fix potholes. The group arrives in a small motorcade, one led by an electric vehicle. A truck carrying a huge machine brings up the rear.

“It was a one-of-a-kind birthday,” he laughs, talking to this reporter en route to Chennai. Sourabh and the motorcyclists – John Kuruvilla (pilot bike), Gautam Khot and Prajwal — are on a road trip around the country. The motorcyclists are chasing a world record for the longest road trip on an electric vehicle.

Each of them is driving home a message through this journey which began on February 4 in Bengaluru to cover 15000 km, 25 cities in 54 days.

Sourabh, who is co-founder of PotHoleRaja, a Bengaluru-based social start-up, plans to fix over 1000 potholes and spread awareness about road safety during this expedition. The men on the bikes are promoting electric vehicles (EVs) as the future of mobility. The mission is also aimed at inspiring college students to think as entrepreneurs and build social startups .

In Chennai, the team with their two messages descended upon Crescent University, where they interacted with the students. “They already have an incubation centre and our event was to encourage them further through our journeys,” he says.

For PotHoleRaja, which leverages public-private partnership and engages citizens, employees and transgenders to help make roads free of potholes, this trip is a big step to showcase to municipal corporations eco-friendly, affordable and quicker solutions to problems people face due to bad roads.

In Bengaluru, many resident groups call them when their roads are in a bad shape as contractors do not find fixing potholes very attractive business proposition. And in such scenarios, the civic body is happy to have groups like these on board.

New technologies

The automated pothole machine is a big draw wherever they stop by. “Tech integration is what we are trying to bring out in our machine,” says Sourabh, who quit his corporate job to join co-founder Prathap Bhimasena Rao.

He says the machine can fix 400 potholes a day but in the road trip they are patching nine to ten in a city.

“Within six to eight months, we can claim a city to be pothole-free with the machine. It helps us take large work with less manual intervention,” he says.

Backed by technology, PotHoleRaja has been making use of reusable plastic to preserve the condition of the roads. Apart from informal chats with people at restaurants, the team gets themselves invited to offices of the municipal corporation who are keen on adopting the model.

Coimbatore municipal commissioner, for instance, was keen on implementing this eco-friendly method in the city, he says.

Similarly, engineers from the Hyderabad Municipal Corporation wanted to learn more about us.

“Our biggest success of this road trip is when organisations are enthusiastic about adopting these changes,” he says. At Ongole, some youngsters joined the group to fix two big potholes. “I had posted on Twitter that we are stopping in the city and they helped us in the exercise,” he says. Citizens participation is key to this model being sustainable.

“Unless citizens are involved in the development a country cannot develop,” he says.

Not all routes have been mapped for the pothole fixing activity. In some cities, through Twitter they ask public to inform them of areas that need a quick fix.

At every stopover, the team interacts with college students to talk about their life lessons and inspire students to start their own enterprises.

“We are a five-year-old start-up and there are many ups and downs that we share with students,” he says. Sourabh says the entire trip is sponsored by various start-ups including Charzer and SpareIT and it goes to show that they can work collaboratively.


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Printable version | May 22, 2022 10:34:07 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/on-a-54-day-all-india-tour-with-one-machine-andtwo-messages/article65058948.ece