This former MakeMyTrip and Paytm exec turns entrepreneur with his startup solving parking problems
Building companies for growth and scale isn’t new for Amit Lakhotia. In his earlier ventures, he has not only been instrumental in ensuring the growth of the product, but also looked at how they could reach scale. “Tokopedia was valued at $500-$600 million when I joined, and when I left, it was valued at $7 billion,” says Amit.
But after three successful stints at MakeMyTrip, Paytm, and Tokopedia, Amit wanted to build something of his own and saw an opportunity in the consumer side with parking and decided to start Park+. It is a smart consumer app that tells a consumer about different parking places available in a particular area. It has already raised $11 million in funding led by Sequoia India and Matrix India Partners.
It gives the consumer options to park at different locations. He says the idea is to help the consumer discover a parking space on the go:
“The idea is to create a 'BookMyShow' for parking. Around 10 years ago, nobody would book a ticket online. Everybody would go to movie counters to buy tickets, sometimes tickets would be available, sometimes not, and then there would be this long queue. It is the same experience in parking. So can we create an infrastructure where people who have meetings or want to go out somewhere, can open the app and book a slot and go to the place? You don’t have to hassle around figuring out where to park.”
Where can I park?
The idea of Park+ came to Amit when he faced difficulties while finding a parking space at Paytm office. He says,
“There were limited parking spaces at the Paytm office. Most people would circle around, spending 10-15 minutes every day finding a space. And they would invariably have to park on the road. So, in the middle of the day, people would try to change the space, fearing that the car may get towed,” says Amit.
Parking, without doubt, remains a big problem. While different transport options like Ola and Uber are trying to take cars off the roads, their availability isn’t guaranteed and they aren’t inexpensive either. Cities like Bengaluru do not have a reliable mode of public transport, so most people are left with no option other than to use their vehicles.
Solving a hyperlocal problem
“In the US, there are studies that say people spend 10 percent of their trip figuring out parking, and if this can happen in a country like the US which is more organised, I am sure the number is higher in India. People park on the road because they can’t find parking and they end up choking the main roads, service lanes, and even footpaths,” says Amit.
He adds that the issue of finding a parking space is time-consuming. It is a hyperlocal problem. The same space that is occupied during the daytime, may be available at night. And the space that is available in the weekday, might not be available on weekends, and vice versa.
Amit adds that because urban cities in India aren’t very well planned - there are malls, corporate offices, hospitals, and residential societies - built together in the same block.
“What happens is that malls are mostly empty on the weekdays and full on the weekends. Corporate offices are full on weekdays and empty on weekends. It is a cluster-by-cluster approach that you need to take. Wherever the space is available, you need to make it digitally available and make the consumer discover it. This will bring more spaces online,” explains Amit.
Partnering and working together
Now, there is also the problem that there may be spaces available but they might be 500-700 metres away from the destination. For that, Park+ aims to partner with bike-sharing and valet parking services.
“The customer wants to be comfortable and doesn’t want to figure out stuff. If we digitise it, put it online, and make it available, the experience gets simpler,” adds Amit.
The space already has a few players like GetMyParking, Pparke, Parking4Sure, and Parkwheels, among others. Globally, the brand is locking horns with brands like Parkopedia, SpotHero, Appyparking, Parker, JustPark, Easypark, and others. The market opportunity for parking is estimated to be over $100 billion globally and $5 billion in India.
Challenges and future
However, Amit believes the ecosystem can be created only when all the players can work with each other. He adds that the category creation has only just begun. While people book tickets online, they don’t do it for parking. Then there also is the challenge of traffic congestion on the road.
“You can’t predict the ETA, there is scepticism on the supply-side, but transactions will show that the system will work,” says Amit. He also says that the government has become more focussed on the problem, which has helped.
The team is currently looking to establish in Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru. “With the income levels increasing, people will keep buying cars. Now, we look to add 10 cities, and in the next five years, we will look at 40 to 50 cities. And we have a global opportunity,” says Amit.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)
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