Ravi Kumar, an alumnus of the Army Institute of Technology in Pune was recently awarded this certificate from the Army Centre in Bangalore: Why? Because Ravi Kumar started up udChalo which is a service for the army personnel and SSB (Services Selection Board) candidates in Bangalore.
What does it do? Army personnel in India have to travel quite a bit and they are rarely tech savvy. Trains are the preferred more of travel and the biggest chunk still buys offline and often have to change or cancel travel plans because their tickets are wait listed. And at the same time, many flights (with almost the same rates) take off with empty seats between the same destinations. And this is where udChalo comes in- it allows army personnel travelling via 1A or 2A to take up these empty seats on the planes if their ticket is wait listed.
Yes, there are a lot of questions that arise when one hears this proposition but udChalo has been able to do this successfully for army personnel in Bangalore for more than 6 months now. They have a tie up with one of the largest airlines in India and the system works only if the army personnel enters his details which prove their identity and also their train reservation details so that no one can directly come on the platform for the airline ticket.
It all started when Ravi, who was about to join IIT-B for his masters in technology, landed on this idea of figuring out a way in which people can be allowed to fly on seats which are going vacant. Graduating in 2009 from the Army Institute of technology, Ravi worked for a few years at Tata Technologies and Dassault before deciding to make a move for further studies. He had some savings and the itch to do something on his own was pretty strong. He found some support from the Army Institute alumni and took the plunge. Varun Jain, who has also co-founded Tavisca Solutions Pvt. Ltd., joined forces with Ravi to launch UpCurve Software whose first product is udChalo.
People fly everywhere. All the time. And no one likes an expensive fare. Least of all, if they’re paying from their own pocket. So now? What to do? Book 2 months in advance? Sure. And wish you hadn’t when the fares fall. Or book last minute. And the fares are so high, you wish you’d booked earlier. We’ve put you in a dilemma. When is the best time to book? Well in advance or last minute? udChalo aims to 'make flights cost effective' to Indian middle class.
This is the problem statement udChalo was founded originally founded with and over time, it has found its niche by targeting army professionals to begin with. The connections help ofcourse. But the Ravi informs us that this niche market comprises of over 2 crore people in India which is huge and completely untapped.
"We did pilot testing of this idea during last 2013 November and generated transactions of over INR 10 lakhs within 17 days of pilot running. After successful stint of pilot testing, we started our actual operation in July, 2014 where, we chose to start with one city which is BLR and a atrgeted audience," says Ravi. They realized the loopholes and fixed them after the pilot test.
India's rail network is chock-a-block most of the times while the domestic airlines have to run with vacant seats (ofcourse because of the price). Ravi tells us that the maximum value of Passenger Load Factor (PLF), in the year 2013 was 89% whereas the lowest value drops to as low as 62%. The problem might have occurred to many but taking up the challenge to solve this issue requires a lot of guts. Just the thought of a small company starting up to bridge airlines and railways is pretty intimidating and udChalo deserves a kudos for that.
Going forward, the udChalo model has to inherently ensure that the airlines don’t lose original customers and streamlining this complex process of building the bridge. Currently, udChalo is providing this facility on all outbound & inbound flights from BLR. They also have a physical counter inside SSB center BLR near MG Road and if all goes well, the plan is to go Pan India.