Sun Telematics’ DRIVE is a corporate fleet management platform that uses cloud technologies to help vendors and fleet managers optimise their operations and simplifies end-to-end transport management. The team has also developed an app for the Kaali-Peelis in Mumbai.
It is 7 am and 27-year-old Suhasini Suresh is waiting for a cab to take her to work at Bengaluru’s ITPL. Suhasini uses cab aggregators like Ola and Uber for private outings, but office cabs seem more practical for the office commute. It is common for most people working at corporates to use transport provided by the company.
Antony Sheen, 48, and Sasi Kumar Armugham, 36, then working for a Japanese navigation multinational, felt the need for an innovative, sustainable and profitable telematics organisation for vehicles. This is, is simple terms, a way of monitoring vehicles using cloud technologies. Antony says,
“After a bit of deliberation and a detailed analysis of the opportunities in the Indian market, we decided to take the plunge. We started our company with the conventional hardware-based telematics solution for managing corporate employee transport.”
Working from a basement
Beginning work at a basement at a friend’s house in Koramangala, Bengaluru, in 2013, Sun Telematics started providing help with fleet management to corporates. Antony recalls that they soon had a fleet of over 8,000 vehicles on their platform. An order of Rs 1 crore helped them find a better office space and things seemed to be on the right road.
Sitting in a coffee shop on day, not long after, Antony and Sasi deliberated on how to take their company forward. They came up with the idea of DRIVE, a mobile and web-based cloud solution designed to optimise different transport operations.
It can efficiently increase vehicle usage and encourage transport vendors and fleet managers to automate their day-to-day transport activities. DRIVE is a plug-and-play product, and can be used by any transport vendor or corporate without investing much on hardware infrastructure.
The duo then roped in Vilas Badarinath, who has over 10 years of experience in the taxi and cab industry across companies including Meru Cabs, Mega Cabs and Savaari, and Kamalesh Shekar, who has experience in business and strategy development.
Antony explains the team was used to thinking from the corporate demand and needs perspective, but the larger pain point was on the vendor and service provider side. Viewing the business from a vendor perspective, they found that the majority of the industry was not organised in its operational strategies and technologies. It could perform much better by adapting to advanced technology based transport solutions.
“Using DRIVE, an aggregation of vehicle supply can also be created and made available to demand generators. It’s like having efficient, safe, cost-effective and expandable fleet on demand,” Anthony adds.
What does it do?
The platform now essentially helps fleet managers, vendors and even corporates to manage all types of transport, be it corporate employee transportation, shuttle services, outstation trips or intra-city packages.
Corporates and transport vendors can be assured of end-to-end automation of transport operations, optimisation of trips using routing and scheduling, real-time analytics, cross-utilisation of vehicles and managing multiple customer demand channels.
The dashboard provides a quick overview of all the trips and lists out issues that need to be addressed immediately. The application also provides various insights on long-term strategic view of transport operations and profitability analysis. Live Dashboard enables tracking of delayed trips and assists in taking real-time corrective action. Fleet Supervisor is equipped to make dynamic changes to routes and assign new vehicles in case of breakdowns.
DRIVE also ensures employee safety and security, which is extremely critical for all organisations. Corporates find that this solution empowers them to manage different facilities and transport vendors from a single centralised team.
Sun Telematics claims their applications have been implemented in over 40 companies, covering over 20,000 fleet vehicles with more than 1,00,000 transactions per day with zero error.
Also, in partnership with the Mumbai Taximen’s Union and Mumbai Taxi Association, the team serves as the tech aggregator for Kaali-Peeli taxis in Mumbai; they launched their app named Aamchi Drive in June this year.
The app provides the most convenient way to book the iconic Kaali-Peeli taxis and offers a hassle-free ride anytime, anywhere within the city at very affordable fares to the customers. This will also help the Kaali-Peeli taxi drivers in getting completely digitalised and puts them in score with the organised sector.
On the right road
Antony says the company’s key challenges were optimisation of fleet operations and maximisation of revenue, while ensuring a clear line of communication with employees and coordinators.
Sun Telematics follows a software-as-a-service (SaaS) and transaction-based revenue model. The team has raised two rounds of pre-Series A funding amounting to $1 million. They raised an initial round of angel funding by Anil Jain, managing director, AJ Investments, Refex Group. The next round was raised by JITO, Jain International Trade Organisation.
“We are looking to raise another round of $1 million of pre-Series A funding, for which we are already in talks with many institutional investors,” Antony says. The company has grown to a team of 80, and Antony says they were profitable within the first three years of operations and have grown 100 per cent year on year in SaaS revenue.
In FY 2013-14, Sun Telematics claims to have had a revenue of Rs 1.35 crore. The next year, this figure was at Rs 5.7 crore with an EBITDA of Rs 0.3 crore. In the last financial year, their revenue was pegged at Rs 5.4 crore with an EBITDA of Rs 0.4 crore.
The market and future plans
According to Technavio, the market research and analysis firm, the commercial vehicle telematics market in India is poised to see a compound annual growth rate of 16 per cent by 2020.
Currently, there are several players in the market: CaRPM, a telematics solution provider that looks at monitoring vehicle mileage; Deneebo Commuting Solutions, which uses internet-of-things (IoT) and vehicle tracking; Trak N Tell, a Delhi-based vehicle telematics startup; and the US-based NexTraq. Apart from these, logistics platforms like Blume-backed Locus and Yuri Milner-backed Blackbuck work towards end-to-end fleet and load management for vendors and transporters.
Antony says Sun Telematics is now working to maximise the number of fleet vehicles on DRIVE. The firm is also looking to rope in travel aggregators who provide travel packages and corporates keen to use this platform for their employees’ domestic travel.