Based in Delhi, friends Dhananjaya Bharadwaj and Abhimanyu Singh founded ‘ParkMate’ to tackle parking challenges in India.
One experiences immense joy when purchasing a car. Dhananjaya Bharadwaj, the former deputy commandant posted in Krishnapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, was on cloud nine when he bought his BMW X1 in October 2017. Wanting to share his excitement, he drove to Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, to take his mother on a ride in his shiny new SUV (sport utility vehicle). However, little did he anticipate that this journey from Moradabad to New Delhi would change his life.
After driving to Delhi for a family function, the duo headed to Karol Bagh. Dhananjaya struggled to find a parking spot in the busy shopping area. After searching for more than 20 minutes, he eventually found a parking lot belonging to the North Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).
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“Seeing the logo, I thought that it must be safe. The parking staff wanted me to leave the key. I was apprehensive but obliged after seeing that everyone was doing the same. I took my parking slip and left,” Dhananjaya tells The Better India.
After a two-hour shopping sojourn, what he saw, or rather didn’t see, made the ground beneath his feet sink. His car was nowhere to be seen. When the staff there seemed indifferent, the former deputy commandant knew that “something bad had happened”. After some calls to the police, they found out that the car had been towed.
“My car was damaged and I had to pay more than Rs 1.75 lakh to repair it. When I confronted the parking staff, they pointed me to these words on the parking slip — ‘parking at owner’s risk’. I knew that I couldn’t be the only person facing this problem and harassment by the parking mafia,” adds the 34-year-old.
Confronted with persistent parking issues in busy areas throughout the country, he spoke to his friend Abhimanyu Singh. This discussion spurred them to devise a solution — ParkMate. This app-based platform provides hyperlocal and on-demand parking solutions for businesses and individuals.
Solving the parking problem
According to an article by The Patriot, Delhi alone witnesses approximately one crore cars parked daily, contributing to a market worth Rs 44.5 crore. Moreover, the Delhi Police receives over 250 calls every day, concerning fights related to parking.
Dhananjaya and Abhimanyu, who were both working with the Government at the time, decided to write a technical paper about the parking problem in the country. But their research led them to find a long-term viable solution to the problem instead.
“We found that 97 percent of this parking industry is unorganised. Traffic congestion leads to a Rs 1.45 lakh crore-worth economic opportunity loss in four major cities of India. Of this, Rs 36,000 crore is due to parking congestion. A person burns 100 litres of fuel searching for parking daily,” adds Dhananjaya, CEO and co-founder, ParkMate.
Armed with the data, the friends decided to solve the problem themselves with ParkMate, which offers two solutions — DASH (Drop and Shop) for individuals and the Trident system for businesses for parking management.
To access the DASH service, users can download the application, enter the destination, book a valet, and reach there. ParkMate’s attendants, who are OTP verified, will pick up the car from the set location. Dhananjaya says that all cars are GPS-tagged, enabling users to track their vehicle’s live movement. They also share 360-degree images of the cars before and after delivery with the customers. Once done, you can tap on the ‘Get my car’ option on the app, and collect the car wherever you are.
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“We offer instant, safe, and guaranteed parking. At ParkMate, the risk is ours, not the owner’s. We cover all risks with five different kinds of insurance,” adds the CEO.
ParkMate charges Rs 49 for its services plus the parking charges. They don’t hire any staff on the ground but work with existing parking operators. “We work with the official operators under a revenue-sharing model. We train the attendants for 12 days,” he further explains.
For businesses like malls, shopping complexes, big residential societies and government offices, they offer a suite of software and hardware services to automate parking space through the Trident system.
“Our system offers a three-tier integration of the FASTag plus ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) plus UniPay system (online payment for businesses), which utilises state-of-the-art HD cameras, an inbuilt controller, and our proprietary software. Money is deducted through FASTag and license plates are scanned on entry and exit, making vehicle entry management effortless,” says Abhimanyu Singh, co-founder, ParkMate.
ParkMate’s transactions are totally paperless. The founders say their goal is to reduce congestion, save fuel, and provide a hassle-free parking experience.
Started in July 2022, ParkMate is present in New Delhi, Jaipur and Lucknow. The duo share that they have served over 5.5 lakh customers so far, and are launching their services in Mumbai and seven more cities soon.
“I have always faced a frustrating time parking at Connaught Place, Karol Bagh, and other busy areas in Delhi. I’ve spent over 15 to 20 minutes every time just looking for a spot. Dealing with the staff on the ground is also a tough task. ParkMate has really simplified it and made my outings fun. Their interface is easy to use and smooth,” says Aditya, a ParkMate customer.
Taking a calculated risk
Nurturing this idea since 2017, the pair, who initially met as teenagers at a Call of Duty (video game) World tournament, devoted time to refining their solution and saving funds before quitting their jobs. Coming from middle-class families, they emphasised the importance of taking a calculated risk.
“We hail from operational backgrounds. We wanted to build a corpus that could sustain us for two years before leaving our jobs. Even then, my family was not happy about me quitting my government job. We suffered from the ‘Abba nahi maanenge’ (Dad won’t agree) syndrome. My parents are still angry, but I know they’ll come around,” says Dhananjaya.
The founders say that they did not draw a salary for the first 14 months, and initially, they faced challenges in convincing customers and finding investors.
“This industry is dominated by the mafia. It’s tough to approach them and seek a partnership. Moreover, we started our company during a funding winter (a time when venture capital was less) and had to pool in our own savings. The biggest challenge though, was educating people about our services and gaining their trust. We didn’t do advertisements for the same but have worked on building their trust,” adds Dhananjaya.
Their goal is now to expand across the country and become the go-to parking solution for Indians. “We don’t want anyone to worry about parking when they go out. We want them to have a good time. The risk is on us,” he remarks.
(Edited by Pranita Bhat)
‘Delhi’s mega parking crisis’ Published on 21 June, 2019 Courtesy The Patriot
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