After zipcodes were introduced by the US Postal Service in 1963, an additional secretary in the Union Ministry of Communications in India was quick to introduce an identical system for the Indian postal services almost a decade later–a system we have come to know as pincodes.
Flash forward to four decades later–everything around us has changed. We walk and talk completely electronically–we drop pins, rather than share pincodes, and yet, lengthy addresses have stood the test of time, and can still be vague, confusing, and not specific down to the last square foot. Bharat Bagari and Pramod Rathi, however, decided that our country deserved a simpler and more foolproof system.
Meet the rebels
Thirty seven-year-old Pramod Rathi helms a textile mill, an import-export business, and a real estate firm, all of which he established intermittently after 2006. Bharat Bagari, his 29-year-old co-founder, provides equity research and advisory services to private clients, besides being an entrepreneur.
Following their individual successes, 2013 saw the launch of their first startup together, carswapping.com. In 2015, they took a step towards the construction of bungalows and flats, this time for the real estate professionals and brokers of Jodhpur. The app has amassed a user base of more than 7,000 members.
Being in the real estate industry for such a long time, the duo were familiar with the difficulties people faced with incorrect and incomplete addresses for their listed properties. “While in real estate, not being able to explain the exact location to clients ended up wasting a lot of time and energy. There were times when we ourselves were not able to recognise sites we had visited in the past,” explains Pramod.
Using online and app-based maps could not help when locations had to be communicated physically to their clients. Taking notice of this pain point, Pramod started working with the assumption that the pincode can’t be sacred, and that a system more specific and scientific can and should exist–one that can allow sites to be located as well as communicated easily over the phone, in a message, easily.
'There’s gotta be a better way'
They had to develop a universal product for the country, given that we have myriad regional languages prevalent across the length and breadth of India. Thus, LinCodes, or Location Index Number codes, independent of language barriers, was that simple yet revolutionary paradigm shift in addresses.
Pramod explains that it is a well-defined digital addressing system that can transform pincodes by dividing the entire country into a grid of 10ft x 10ft squares for easy accessibility, with each square assigned a unique 12-digit address in numerical form, leading to a very well-defined system to pinpoint or communicate any location. Every corner thus gets a simple and precise address, instead of a long conventional address.
One can search for any location, or generate a LinCode for a particular location and share it with anybody else, save and create a list of multiple LinCodes for frequent use, and, based on privacy settings, allow people to view and access these saved locations, which can easily lead them to the exact place in question. The allocation of 12-digit numbers is such that all adjacent squares had maximum similar numbers, to remember or identify the locations easily.
“One would notice the resemblance with the word ‘pincode’, but this is, in fact, the most advanced digital version of pincodes, which were based on the large geographical area of a city,” Pramod explains.
Monetising this innovation
While the LinCodes system is free to use for most people, companies that use the service to make money would have to pay a fee for high-volume use of the LinCodes API. “To ensure both the scalability and sustainability of the LinCodes system, we have developed a business model that works for everybody, and our focus will be on having the right commercial solutions for different users. Also, we are working on a few new features; to enjoy all the features to the fullest, one needs to upgrade to LinCodes Pro by paying a premium,” Pramod explains.
An end user essentially gets a personal pincode, a digital address, for their home, office, or any other place. This eliminates the need for landmarks. “LinCodes could turn out to be very helpful during emergencies, as users can reach or send rescue teams to the exact location by avoiding any miscommunication or confusion,” Pramod says.
Businesses like e-commerce, logistics, travel, asset management, and real estate, to name a few, can use LinCodes for precise 'doorstep' delivery, managing assets in different regions or in remote areas, in supply chain and logistics requirements, and so on.
Local government bodies like municipal corporations, development authorities, different departments for emergency response management and disaster management, last 'doorstep' governance, and rehabilitation programmes could also be use-cases for a system so specific.
LinCodes penetrating every area
As a bootstrapped startup, they have started off with a focus on digital marketing and PR, and will continue to maintain that for the next couple of months. “Along with this, we will also be exploring various event options and brand tie-ups in order to generate relevant traction,” reveals Pramod.
Within the span of a couple of weeks, the Jaipur-based company added 5,000 users on their app and are on track to reach at least 10,000 within the next month.
They have already piqued the interest of many startups and organisations in businesses like food or package delivery, ride sharing, real estate, and asset management, which are keen to integrate the LinCodes Addressing System with their existing business model.
“It will take time to see a major impact on the day-to-day life of a common man, but so far, by analysing backend data and reviews by users, we must say that people are accepting it and admiring this new way of sharing addresses,” he says.
A user on their app writes, “With LinCodes’ Digital Address, I was able to provide my guest with an exact location for my new home very easily and conveniently, rather than having to call and explain the location.”
According to a study conducted by ASSOCHAM and Deloitte, with increased 4G and 3G penetration, India is expected to have 600 million Internet users by 2020. Currently, India has nearly 343 million Internet users, and is also the second largest mobile phone market globally, with over a billion mobile subscriptions. Of this number, smartphone users account for approximately 240 million subscriptions, which is expected to grow to 520 million by 2020, adds the study.
While there are quite a few mapping and navigation service apps available, they can only pinpoint locations for those places that already have addresses with a street, colony, building name, and so on. But LinCodes assigns a 12-digit digital address to unaddressed locations too, and also works offline.
The 15-member team at LinCodes has many new features in the pipeline in store for us, like tracking the happenings in a particular location, and creating circles for office staffers, family, and friends and so on, allowing them to–chat within this circle. For their B2B arm, merchants on LinCodes could send customised offers to other LinCodes users when they come within a predefined radius of a store. One will also be able to send an SOS during emergencies, or share updates for any incident, ranging from emergencies to traffic jams and store openings.
Download the app here