An Uber for ambulances – Dial4242 is closing an age-old gap in Mumbai

22nd Jun 2017
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We live in a mostly smart world that continues to be foolish where it matters. Your comfort food cravings today will be met with a perfectly orchestrated dance of transparency and accountability, and every cog in the supply chain falls in line with such comical urgency as though it is a matter of life and death, which is ironic, because when it does come to such matters, our emergency services are thoroughly lacking.

Jeetendra Lalwani and Nilesh Mahambre, who met at a river cleaning drive in Mumbai, recognised the need for a go-to service where you were more in control of all the factors.

Nilesh Mahambre, Jeetendra Lalwani and Himanshu Sharma, Co-founders at Dial4242.

The dream team

Jeetendra Lalwani, 36, Co-founder and Director at Dial4242, is a marketer with over a decade of experience, having been associated with agencies like Leo Burnett, Bates 141, McCann, TBWA, Cartwheel in India. Nilesh Mahambre, 51, who is an engineer from Goa and serves as chairman, brings 25 years of experience across IT services, and has worked with organisations like Tata Consultancy Services—where he spent over 17 years—and Lionbridge Technologies, where he had a seven-year-long stint.

Their third partner, 41-year-old Himanshu Sharma, holds 19 years of experience in the services industry and the startup ecosystem, and has worked for companies like Edenred (India), Reliance Communications, eOfficePlanet and Owens Corning India.

When, where, how

Dial4242 was conceptualised when a personal mishap threw open the glaring holes in the system while booking an ambulance–something that is mostly done during an emergency, when one’s ability to think logically is lost.

The existing process to book an ambulance is extremely complex and time-consuming. People call a doctor or a hospital, ask friends, or rely on Google, which is a great source of information. But once you’ve booked the service, there is a radio silence until the ambulance reaches your location.

“I was often put in a spot during the time of my father’s illness. I personally felt the need to have simple, quick and seamless means to book an ambulance as I figured that we needed a go-to resource,” explains Jeetu.

That is what Dial4242, launched in May 2017, aspires to be–a sure-fire way to book an ambulance and have it reach you within the stipulated time.

With Dial4242, Jeetu says that a user can access the ambulances closest to them, and hence, book someone who knows their locality, receive a confirmation within a minute, and learn the estimated time of arrival.

Jeetu also notes that while currently consumers often fall prey to the steep prices that they are quoted as vendors take advantage of their helplessness, Dial4242 has a pre-fixed pricing model for the first five km, which varies according to the kind of ambulance that is booked. Further, the price is calculated on the basis of every additional kilometre, with the option of digital payments integrated into it, as well.

Dial4242 currently aggregates roughly 200 general, ICU or cardiac, paediatric ambulances and ambulances to transfer the deceased, and will be adding to the list going forward.

The drivers however, need not sign up with Dial4242 exclusively. They can receive calls otherwise as well. And while they have been connecting with independent ambulance owners as well, they are still able to take one to the hospital or location of their choice.

They are also targeting use cases besides emergencies – like hospital transfers, medical appointments, general visits for those who cannot commute otherwise, and also for intercity travel needs.

Their model can also accommodate tie-ups with hospitals and medical entities, like diagnostic centres, to provide services and standardise their current booking process.

Being barely a month old, they have already tied up with seven hospitals and nursing homes, including Seven Hills Hospital at Andheri and Wockhardt Hospital on Mira Road.

While Dial4242 has been working well for hospitals and patients, it has been also been working well for ambulance drivers as they get bookings in a much clearer fashion, for they also faced challenges such as having trouble with complicated addresses, unclear requirements and instructions.

“Ambulance owners were definitely apprehensive at first, but explaining to them how technology will help them grow their business and bring more efficiency helped bring them on board,” explains Jeetu.

Of Angels and Heroes

Besides the Play Store app -which they have purposefully worked hard to keep under 3 MB - there is also a hotline in Mumbai (022-49414242).

The app has been tested in 2G, 3G and 4G environments and works seamlessly in low data connectivity areas as well. The company is currently in the process of developing the iOS app.

Dial4242 earns 20 percent commission on every booking.

The launch saw support from Vrajesh Hirji, a noted Bollywood actor, who gave them an early boost before they commenced their marketing activities. They have had 1,200 downloads in the past one month, and carried out 300 trips in Mumbai so far.

They even received seed investment of Rs 1 crore and are in talks with multiple investors and VCs for their first round to make this service available to a larger population.

Zooming out

This service is the first of its kind in Mumbai. It’s counterparts in Hyderabad are the one-year-old Ambee and seven-month-old StanPlus, both of which are seed-funded and plan to scale at a similar rate as Dial4242. The state-owned 108 is also in the same space, but has not been able to overcome the delay in reaching the spot.

“We were aware of a few other players who ventured in the space before us and also moved on to widening their offerings, but we want to focus on providing quality ambulance services in the shortest possible time. What differentiates us from the rest of the players in the similar space is that we are an aggregator," says Jeetu.

Their employee count has gone from two to 15, and they want to scale to 500 rides a month in the next four months, and expand to other four metros in India within the next nine months.

“We are also exploring the development of a dashboard for hospitals and medical facilities which would allow them to track the whereabouts on an ambulance and indicate the patients’ health, etc.” Jeetu lets on, signing off.

 

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