Ok, so its 10 september 2012 and here I am in my dream university NUST and in my dream profession, software engineering. Its my first day at NUST SEECS, I realize I'm doomed.
Wait what? 4 and a half hours of travel everyday? My mind went numb calculating the hours I would get to sleep everyday and to study everyday. My family life would virtually be none for the next 4 years. 2 hours of commute in the morning and 2.5 hours in the evening? And I can't go home early even if my classes end?
Even when my class is late or I get off early, the van timings are fixed. I see guys hitching rides from their friends or simply coming to uni on a bike. I envy them, being a girl definitely sucks in such situations. I wished I could get rides with someone I know (preferably a girl) who lives nearby my home. I was even willing to pay for the ride sharing! But these wishes remained unfulfilled.
It was in these gruesome 4 years that I have realized how much the quality of life depends on quality of travel. And thus the idea behind CarAamad was born.
What it does
Caraamad is a carpooling service, tailored to the social values of Pakistani society that lets friends and colleagues travelling to the same destination to share their rides in a safe, comfortable and economic way.
It basically connects people of the same organization or from the same social circle i.e. who are friends or friends of friends on facebook for ride sharing.
How we built it
This idea was stuck in my mind for quite a while, so I along with 2 of my friends decided to give this project a try. We talked to a few professors of my university to mentor us and we started developing the app in android (for now). The graphics were made in inkscape, the back end server development was done in JAVA spring tools.
There are 3 revenue generating features that will be implemented in our app:
- We will be collaborating with a reputable and safe taxi service (the negotiations with one are already underway), and whenever our users won't be able to find a ride on our app, we will display an advertisement of the taxi service. And we will be keeping a cut of the fare that is paid to the taxi service for each customer that goes to them through our app.
- The ride offerors will have a limit of 15-20 rides that they can offer for free, after that they will have to buy an yearly subscription.
- Since the app uses facebook login, we will use facebook adverts and monetization API, to display the advertisements relevant to each user, so that it doesn't annoy them. No full page ads would be used. The advertisements would be in a subtle manner that doesn't drive our user away.
Challenges we ran into
We ran into 3 challenges which were hindering the people from adopting the concept of carpooling:
- Its tough to get girls to share rides, they are more concerned about their safety, so we decided to ensure their safety through panic button, a classic feature of our app that sends auto generated texts to family members of the the user of the app in case of an emergency.
- People love their cars, they don't want random people to sit in their cars and make a mess. So to cater this, we connected people who directly or indirectly know each other. Our prospective users were more comfortable with the second scenario (we have statistics to back our findings).
- Its difficult for people to ask for money from people they know. So we will implement a fair price value algorithm that charges per km and according to the luxury of the car. The charges will be pre determined. No bargains. No hassle.
Apart from this, we have faced the challenge of marketing, as we are students, our budget is not much. And we aren't able to market it and make its graphics as well as we would like to. We intent to make a startup out of this, and for that, we are in a fix on how to gather funds.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We started a facebook group alongside the app development with the name of Carpooling@NUST, that was a platform to connect students and faculty of NUST for ride sharing. The link to the group is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/841161116029647/
The group is successfully being run and the students of NUST are anxiously waiting for the app to launch which will be done soon too. We have recently crossed 1100 members on the group in less than a week. We are proud to have a userbase of 1100 members on our group in such a short time who are waiting for the launching of the app.
What we learned
The youth of Pakistan are willing to try out something that gives them hope of solving a problem of theirs. The youth is adapting various paradigm shifts, and carpooling is just around the corner of being adopted. Moreover, we learned that you always have a competitive edge even from the giants like Uber, Tripda etc. when you understand the niche market. When you know how a girl thinks in Pakistan, when you know why a guy would share a ride, when you know what will make parents feel comfortable if their children carpool, when you understand your people, then definitely you can offer them better solutions that fits their thinking and their mindsets.
What's next for CarAamad
We are going to expand beyond NUST as soon as the app is launched. We will expand this to incorporate cab hailing too. So that when our users don't find a suitable ride, they can always call a taxi. As soon as caraamad goes live, we will expand it to all the universities and offices of Pakistan one city at a time. We will arrange seminars in various universities, and advertise our app specifically to universities and offices that have >500 employees. We are trying to get in touch with various telecom providers too, to see if something can be done about ride sharing that deducts money from your e-wallet, so that the hassle of paying money at real time can be solved. Its going to be a long and fun ride for CarAamad, and we are determined to make it a huge success. We will not stop until everyone knows how to make their car caraamad.