Six years ago, a trio from IIT (BHU), Varanasi spotted a business opportunity in the traffic snarls of India's bustling cities. Deepesh Agarwal, Akash Maheshwari and Anuvrata Arora joined forces to set up MoveInSync, a carpool service company, in June 2009. The company launched a website 'RideInSync' to provide car-sharing options to customers through a tie up with a third party cab service provider.
The three entrepreneurs - all in their early 30s then - made little progress with their business plans until April 2010 when a chance meeting with a senior Amazon official in Hyderabad changed their fortunes. Agarwal, co-founder and CEO of the company, had offered carpooling facilities to Amazon to ferry its employees to and fro from the airport. But the Amazon official seemed more concerned about finding answers to another pressing employee transportation problem. The company was transporting its 2,000 employees to office and back home daily, translating into some 1,000 trips a day. It needed to make this process more efficient and convenient for staff and also cut costs. The official asked Agarwal if he could find a way out.
This clearly meant a bigger deal for MoveInSync than what its co-founders had in mind. After all, it was not Amazon alone. There would be scores of other companies with similar needs, thought Agarwal, standing outside the Amazon office on the Hi-Tec City road in Cyberabad, the suburb of Hyderabad that houses many IT and BPO companies. "I felt then there would be at least 100 other companies that would need this," says Agarwal. So, the co-founders brainstormed and realised that they needed to alter their business model. They changed it from business-to-consumer (B2C) to business-to-business (B2B) model - from pure share of revenue though carpooling service, they became solution providers to enterprises and it clicked.
"MoveInSync's platform now has 75,000 employees across 20 organisations and 10 cities... Most of our clients are Fortune 500 companies," says Agarwal, who incidentally is the only co-founder who has been to a B-school. He graduated from the ISB in 2009. His mentor Arun Pereira, Clinical Associate Professor of Management Education, and Executive Director, Centre for Teaching, Learning, and Case Development at the ISB, asserts that he always felt it important to constantly remind his students about a basic principle that most established business leaders know. "It is not the B plan [business plan] that matters but the Plan B that is more likely to work and lead you to success." That is exactly what happened at MoveInSync. The reason Plan B worked this time, according to Pereira, was not just because there was a clear economic value here for the customer but also because of the team. "MoveInSync's founding team was willing to adapt and change in response to data from the marketplace. They quickly moved away from the original plan that focused on offering a ride sharing or carpooling to a business model that leveraged technology to plug inefficiencies in employee transportation services offered by large companies," he says.
Agrees Krishna Tanuku, former executive director of the Wadhwani Centre for Entrepreneurship Development at the ISB, where MoveInSync was incubated. "What I saw in him was his adaptability and ability to constantly align his execution plan with ground realities."
Indeed, the Employee Transportation Solution (ETS) that the company provides is an end-to-end solution for staff transportation. It includes routing, employee cab usage records, live vehicle tracking, automated billing and women security features. The transport manager has complete control over the operations in real time. The ETS consists of two parts: a touch-screen device installed in the cab, and a reliable server hosted in the cloud. Now, this is not what most of the 1,500-odd GPS-enabled cab providers - potential competition to MoveInSync - offer. It is the reason why companies (customers) and investors are betting on the company.
It posted revenues of Rs 4.74 crore in 2013/14 and has sharply pared losses over the last three years. It is hoping to double the user base from 75,000 to 1.5 lakh in the next one year and achieve a cash breakeven. So far, MoveInSync has been able to raise around $4 million from three venture capital (VC) investors - Inventus Capital, Saama Capital and Qualcomm Ventures.
Agarwal feels that the company should be able to grow three to four times each year. In fact, he hopes to become close to a Rs 100-crore company in another three years. "Over time, I find Deepesh much more confident and sure of his idea and that is seen by the fact that VCs have begun to fund him. From an amateur entrepreneur he has become a confident businessman," says Pereira.
Rutvik Doshi, Director, Inventus (India) Advisors, says what attracted them the most to MoveInSync was the leadership team and how they had grown it during the bootstrap phase. "It gave us a lot of confidence that this was a team worth backing," he says. In addition, and perhaps equally importantly, by leveraging technology they were moving in tune with the emerging trends as logistics or employee transportation would increasingly depend on the digital medium. Also, the company is operating in a space that appears to have a huge market. Agarwal says, quoting Nasscom estimates, that about 35 lakh people daily need to travel to and back from work in the IT and BPO sector alone, his key target segment at the moment. The numbers would be much larger, he says, if one were to also look at other sectors that require staff transportation services, such as manufacturing, telecom and media.
There are a few other players in the employee transportation in the country though they don't have the scale and size of MoveInSync yet. For instance, in Bangalore alone, where MoveInSync is also headquartered, there is another player - Cubito, run and operated by Neocube Technology Solutions. Pranay Agrawal, co-founder of the company, says that in January this year they got a Rs 1 crore funding from Sol Primero, an early-stage investment firm. It was just about five months after it hit the market with its solution. Cubito's Employee Transportation Automation Tool compiles all employee information, geo-codes the data and allocates fleet, avoiding unnecessary paperwork and reducing the time spent in enabling to a matter of seconds. "While MoveInSync has been the first mover in this space and been around for the last three to four years, this space can accommodate more players with market for all," says Cubito's Agrawal. The company, which currently has three customers, hopes to end 2015/16 with revenues of around $1 million (Rs 6 crore). Also, Cubito intends to go beyond employee transportation and look at transport optimisation solution for the logistics market as a whole, which could be a huge addressable market.
MoveInSync's Agarwal is clearly aware of the need to be ready for competition but feels they are on the right track. "India currently is a $5-billion market for enterprise shared transport, of which MoveInSync can surely become an important player," he says. This total addressable market, he says, includes cabs and buses transporting employees to work and back daily. "If the company keeps on innovating, it could retain its lead," sums up Doshi of Inventus (India) Advisors.