In 2015, Bengaluru-based Vimal Singh lost a close friend to a road accident. “We had been very close for years, he was like a brother to me,” he recalls in conversation with The Better India. “He was my junior in college, and we’d even lived together for a couple years.”
Vimal’s friend was heading home after attending a function, and made a pit stop at Nagercoil for lunch. “He called me around that time and told me he’d be home soon. That was the last time we spoke,” Vimal says.
On his way home, his friend got into an accident, and his phone was unfortunately locked (tied to a specific carrier network), and so he couldn’t make a call. People eventually arrived at the scene and took him to a nearby hospital, but Vimal’s friend had sustained a severe head injury that required grave medical attention. Because he was unable to make the call in time, a clot had already formed in his blood, and by the time doctors completed all their scans, it was too late to save him.
Meanwhile, when the friend didn’t arrive home in time, Vimal began frantically trying to reach him. When he was finally able to connect and realised his friend had been in an accident, he tried to send help, but around four hours had already passed. “Another thing that struck me was that the hospital waited to start his treatment till they received the money needed,” he notes.
Despite trying their best to shift him to another hospital and get him better help, ultimately, Vimal’s friend passed away.
“This left a deep impact on me. I remained confined to my home for at least three to four months to recover. The grief soon morphed into a larger need to help people who might need assistance after major accidents,” Vimal says.
24/7 Roadside Assistance
So the same year, he began by offering services nearby out of his own pocket — anyone who met with an accident could reach out to Vimal, who would pay upfront for the medical procedure in order to fasttrack the treatment, and then settle with the family once they arrived at the hospital. “For me, it was just about rotating some money to save a life,” he says.
Wanting to further his reach, Vimal spoke to a friend and asked if he would like to be involved. The duo began by going to hospitals to reach out to accident victims, which is when they grew more accustomed to the larger problems that existed within the ecosystem. “Identity, information, data management — all of these factors were brought to light for us. So we started building solutions for everything, step-by-step. This involved technological, structural and operational solutions, which eventually became ReadyAssist,” he explains.
ReadyAssist is a 24/7 roadside assistance service that offers services of repairs in case of vehicle breakdowns, or help in case of accidents. Headquartered in Bengaluru, the company promises to deliver these services within 30 minutes. While the repair services are chargeable, accident recovery services are free of cost.
The company has a presence across 700 districts, with a major presence in 63 of them, and limited support in the rest owing to challenges such as higher altitudes, rocky terrains, among others. In March 2020, they clocked a turnover of Rs 4 crore, which was a massive jump from Rs 3 lakh, clocked in the same period the previous year.
ReadyAssist offers two models of service — on demand and subscription based. On-the-spot breakdown service, as well as general repairs, are available for both bikes and cars for direct consumers, large vehicle rental companies, and corporates alike. It has also recently extended its support to electric vehicles (EV), and has partnered with three EV companies for this, without disclosing their names.
Their aim is to provide services such as battery swapping and on-the-spot charging through mobile units, as well as to address challenges pertaining to the EV sector, such as building a service and support network, charging network and RSA (roadside assistance network), among others.
ReadyAssist has also partnered with Shell to offer convenient oil changing services across the country. The idea is to operate over 6,000 micro-lube stations across the country, to be operated by one mechanic to perform lube-change two-wheelers and four-wheelers.
How Does One Provide Absolute Road Safety?
Speaking of the challenges ReadyAssist faces while providing services, Vimal notes, “India is a vast country, so we need a larger network to reach the remotest areas of the country. There are also limitations in the infrastructure that we alone as a company cannot solve. Say you’re traveling from Mysore to Wayanad via road. You might encounter areas that stretch for kilometres on end and don’t receive any mobile network. In case you run into troubles on such roads, it would be difficult to reach us. If you did, I would dispatch support instantly, but the gaps are there. This is an area we are still working on.”
“There are also reserved areas where we cannot park tow trucks, so the time it takes to reach someone in need might increase as well. Alongside there are financial constraints. How many units can I deploy across the country? Even if I charge a premium on the pay-per-use model, it might not be enough to cover the costs we need to cover a massive area,” he adds.
Vimal also says, “Road safety doesn’t include just accidents. Through my research, I have found that we also have to consider health factors — for example, someone driving suffers from a sudden cardiac arrest. Or women’s safety, where a woman driving alone late at night might need assistance.”
The onset of COVID-19 also proved to be challenging, wherein the lockdown and subsequent travel restrictions limited ReadyAssist’s reach. However, Vimal notes that the situation has eased slightly. Recruitment of skilled workers and conducting field work had also slowed things down.
As of now, ReadyAssist is focussing on scaling up through its new subscription model, and focussing on involving EVs under its ambit.
For more information, you can visit ReadyAssist’s website.
Edited by Yoshita Rao
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