Wednesday 13th December 2017

    CRAMAT, an app to report civic issues to the authorities!

    Start-up firm Webrosoft has created a special camera app that can not only take a photo but also show its exact location and time, using longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates. Called the Citizens Reporting and Mapping Tool (CRAMAT), the app can track anything from overflowing waste bins, potholed-roads to broken street-lights and automatically send photographic evidence of such civic issues to the officer responsible for the area. A nominee at the Start Up India, Stand Up India competition in 2016, the company has been chosen by multinational technology firm Dell to be a part of its smart city partner ecosystem. Jaskirat Singh, founder, Webrosoft, talks to Tradebriefs about the mobile app, and his future plans. Excerpts... Read On ..

    Tell us about what the app does.
    It's a special camera app that not only takes a photograph but also shows its exact location and time on a screen. This way, you can ensure the accuracy of the location. When we took it to the commissioner in Ludhiana, we told him we could track pretty much anything and that even citizens could use it to report civic problems. He was very excited and we launched in Ludhiana the next week. We then started pitching it to other cities and this is how it all started. This was about three-four years ago.

    What sort of traction have you got since then?
    Three different government departments in Punjab are now using it track the attendance of their field staff. If officers can report a couple of pictures from the location they've just visited, it ensures the work happens as well as attendance. This is being seriously pursued by departments which have a lot of field staff. In Mohali, they are using it for the city cleaning operations where all the city cleaning staff are being tracked. Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) is going to launch this on November 27 and we have another contract in the pipeline. In Punjab, the attendance of all field staff is under PUDA. There are six urban development authorities at the district levels and there are 2,500 staff as of now but the number may go up. Second, PUDA is also going to use the app to track illegal construction. Senior officers can track the progress over time and check what action has been taken. Citizen involvement to report overflowing waste bins to their respective municipalities is going on in four cities – three in Punjab and one in Himachal Pradesh.

    What is the interest like for this solution?
    I may sound very gung-ho about how they are using technology but still, governments are not very clear. Especially in a state like Punjab which has to pay off a pile of debt, there are no allocated budgets for technology solutions. Interestingly, in February this year, the state election commission of Maharashtra approached us saying they would like to use the app to track any violations of the code of conduct by political parties prior to the elections. They used it for two rounds of elections and are going to continue with it in December with elections scheduled in the first half of the month. They are running a campaign, encouraging citizens to report any violations and the campaign is called citizens on patrol, or COP.
    On the private sector side, Dell is doing an event in Chandigarh on November 30 to showcase what they have for smart cities and what we have already done here. We are still a small company, still a start-up but the good thing is a lot of the big boys have started noticing us, like Dell, for instance.

    How did that come about? What are you doing with Dell?
    Actually, Dell approached us and said they are planning to start an ecosystem of solutions partner companies because Dell is primarily a hardware company. They wanted to build an ecosystem of smart city technology players and we are now part of that along with 25-30 partners they have got. In fact, we even won the best smart city solution award which Dell awarded to us in a competition they ran internally for all the partners they had brought together! So overall, we are still a small player, but yes, we do have more clients now.

    The government is known to delay payments. Are you facing any issues, being a startup?
    At least, somebody is paying even after delays! To be catering to private sector, I need to reach a certain level, and I can’t reach them also by sitting in Ludhiana. Big customers are located in the bigger cities like Mumbai and Delhi. To chase them, I need to grow up and grow more muscle. Given a choice, I am picking the government because I can target them here in Ludhiana. So, yes, we are getting paid and delays are still there, but at least, we have figured out how not to make certain mistakes in paperwork and how to best go about the entire process.

    Aren’t you thinking of getting in an investor to help you grow muscle?
    Currently, we are bootstrapped. We have not approached investors. Every business has two sides. One is the financial side which is there in any business. Also, there is the passion. I am doing what I am doing because I feel very strongly that a lot of things in society need to be fixed. For this, the government needs to function better to be able to deliver. I have not approached investors because this is not a story that they are going to like. No doubt, it has very strong impact and gets talked about – helping government to improve itself – but if you approach investors they will tell you that you are foolish. This is when I thought not to approach investors and keep on at it in bootstrap mode, keep innovating till whatever level I can on my own. Once I have scaled up and profitability and viability are clearly visible, I will see if I need an investor. Till then, I am happy doing what I am doing.

    But surely, today there is too much capital chasing fewer ideas?
    I am member of the National Association of Software Companies (NASSCOM) and I keep meeting angel investors, etc. However, when it comes to specifics, they are all looking for a fast buck. I am not someone who can answer this question about how fast I can provide an exit on an investment where we are trying to fix government employees where 2500 people are not marking attendance. If I start talking on these lines, it is very difficult to justify to an investor as to why I am working for such a small amount for such a big project. But the good thing is the work is still going on, regardless, and I am happy about that. The only thing I am unable to do is hire a big marketing team and go after big enterprise customers. If I take on an investor, maybe I can attempt that but anyway, this is fine.

    You are going to build scale on your own, slow and steady?
    Certainly. The only thing is yes, we have slowed down but I feel this is a good thing. To go faster than our current pace might not allow me to navigate the ship properly which it is important for me to do. I'm not a Flipkart kind of a guy. I'm happy with what I am getting which is about one customer per quarter. I don’t have any flashy numbers to announce but I am actually making an impact everywhere I go with customers giving me good feedback about what they are able to achieve with this technology. I am not spending anything on marketing; everything is word of mouth; every new customer I get is from the previous customer who gave me a reference. I have about a dozen customers right now. We have a five-member team and we are paying salaries. What matters to me personally is how much improvement I am able to deliver at the end of the day. Of course, financials are important, but I have to be in something like this, investors or no investors.

     

    - TradeBriefs Bureau

     


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