_SocialStarters spoke to Rob, a Social Enterprise Consultant who joined us in India last May, about his consultancy experience in Hyderabad on our Immersion Programme working with social enterprise, RideIT.
Tell us about the start-up you worked with.
RideIT is a start-up carpooling service, via a website, for working professionals that was launched earlier this year. One of its founders was an ex-IT professional who realised that too many people were driving alone on the same commuter routes. Not only does the company provide a service to colleagues who can reduce the cost of their commute and meet new people, it also seeks to reduce city traffic [in Hyderabad] and carbon emissions, which are clearly major issues both in India and worldwide.
It sounds like a good idea, one that could have a wider impact worldwide. Did you imagine working with such an organisation?
No! To be honest I wasn’t expecting to be working with this calibre of company. It was incredibly professional, the founders are very switched on, with ambitious plans for the future. The other consultant and I realised that, if successful, this company could have a significant impact across India and potentially globally. It could also generate huge revenues (and profits) while having a positive effect on society.
In fact, the main concern we had at the start is whether we could provide value to the clients – such was the impressiveness of the company.
Did you manage to overcome that?
Ha we hope so! One area the client raised early on with us is that they would appreciate some input on financial projections. We were obviously happy to help, and produced a model that closely linked financial outputs with inputs on the sizing of their business operations. It was great to get feedback that this has already helped them to experiment with their business model and expansion plans.
But I guess our greatest impact came when we realised that the company needed to monitor and analyse its data more effectively. This was especially important given that the company was an online service, so there was a wealth of quantifiable information out there on who was using the service and how they were using it.
This was actually quite an early win for us. We demonstrated that analytics could have a significant impact on the direction of the company, and RideIT understood our point, and its benefit, immediately – which was great. You realise that a start-up is so multi-faceted; there’s so much information to constantly consider. The product, marketing etc were all done so proficiently, we were happy to add value in an area that hadn’t received as much focus as until now.
How did you find working with your clients?
They were great. Highly motivated, ambitious and receptive to new ideas. It was actually quite inspiring working with people like them. They were trying to achieve something very difficult: change consumer behaviour regarding commuter trips. This kind of stuff occurs more in cities like San Francisco, especially with companies like UberPOOL [a cab-pooling service], so it was great and refreshing that the founders believed market disruption could take effect in Hyderabad and other cosmopolitan Indian cities.
In general though, it was very easy to be motivated working with them and the company. We felt that our contributions were having an instantaneous and direct impact. Our meetings were always productive and business-focused, and this meant that we believed we got a lot done.
RideIT sounds very ambitious. Where do you think the company will be in a year’s time?
Hmm that’s a good question. Start-ups generally don’t have a great success rate! There are a number of competitors in India who are also pushing hard to be the carpooling service that takes off. The market only really has space for a few and Critical mass and user-base are crucial: it’s a kind of do-or-die situation.
However, all the signs point to RideIT having a very good chance of being one of those successful few. The clients are very aware of their competitors and the carpooling market, and they’ve grown their user-base significantly in the last few months with thousands of registered users in Hyderabad. With subsequent investment, and an openness to iterate following consumer engagement, I’m sure that it will succeed in its planned geographical expansion.
Would you use the service yourself?
Of course! It makes sense on a number of levels, and all it really needs is a well-trodden commuter route. This might not be as significant in places where public transport links are effective, such as central London, but you can see how useful it can be in the US, India, or anywhere else where large corporations exist on the outskirts of cities. It will be interesting to see how the market develops in the future, and our clients are excited too! Let’s hope they can shape it!
If you’d like to #JoinUs in India on our next Immersion Programme in the role of Social Enterprise Consultant (forthcoming intakes: 22nd August & 24th October) we have a few places left but hurry, don’t delay! Send us your CV and a cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org or find out more HERE. Closing date 1st July for August programme and 1st August for October programme 2015. You can find out more about our programmes and dates on our website www.socialstarters.org #JoinUs