Hitching a Ride—The Story of Mighty Cabs
At the end and beginning of every semester, the Facebook groups populated with MIT students see numerous posts asking for people to share cab rides to and from the airport with. On 11th November 2017, a second-year student, Mayank Sachdev, showed Tushar Raj Pradhan his Facebook news feed, that was filled with such posts, and said that he wished there was some better way for this to be done. The thought soon turned into an idea, with the recognition that a car-pooling service could serve as a much more convenient and efficient way to find co-travellers. After a brief discussion, the duo made the decision to take the initiative themselves and thus, the carpooling service Mighty Cabs was born.
Within the next 48 hours, Tushar, the more tech-oriented of the duo and who would take on the position of Chief Technology Officer, had a basic layout for a website ready. This, however, was the easy part. As they proceeded, they began facing more hurdles they had to overcome. The cab drivers in Manipal could not be convinced to sign up for the venture. Three customers booking one cab meant, in the worst-case, just one-third of the profits they would otherwise have got with them booking three separate rides.
The founders got around this problem by heading over to the nearby town of Katpadi, where they met with taxi drivers. After some negotiations, the first contract was signed. It was a win-win for both parties—Mayank and Tushar now had the vehicles to get their service started, and the Katpadi drivers could begin operations in Manipal, where they had always wanted to create a base.
The webpage was launched at 10 AM on 14th November. Considering the volume of posts on Facebook, Mayank and Tushar expected a considerable number of sign-ups. They were, however, left disappointed after receiving less than five bookings in the first two days.
Not losing heart, the team talked to the drivers again and negotiated a lower price. Along with the revised rates, they also began offering other offers to rope in customers. The two went on a sponsorship drive a day before the end-semester examinations and managed to sell the idea well, getting six sponsors before rolling out the publicity again. The bonuses—snacks in the vehicles and free meals for lucky winners—also added to the lure of lower prices. The efforts paid off considerably, as for their first run of the service—at the end of the odd semester of 2017—they managed to get around 125 people to use Mighty Cabs. They ran their vehicles for six days, starting from the early morning of 26th November.
With time, Manipal drivers too began to opt into the service, convinced that the lower fares would draw in more customers and so could actually be a better deal for them. While in the beginning, the allocation of cabs had to be done manually, the software in place now automates all the requests. The initially self-invested company, which feared losses in its early days, now operates on a profit margin, albeit a narrow one. It was the official travel partner and sponsor of DL101’s LOLStars featuring comedian Biswa Kalyan Rath. The team has also ventured into many other areas through their registered parent company, Root Node Technologies. Tushar Raj Pradhan has gone on to found Mighty Bookings, a movie ticket booking portal in Sikkim. Mighty Flats, a service to help students find apartments to rent, has also recently been launched.
As with any other service, dealing with unhappy customers is a delicate challenge that the Mighty Cabs team will have to deal with. With cabs having riders from different flights, delays in even one of these flights could mean a long and frustrating wait for some. This is one danger that is difficult to prepare for completely; it has, in the past, led to some angry rants on public forums. In the end, it is the public that will decide the success of Mighty Cabs. The end of this semester, which will see their service running again, will be a major test for the company. A glance at Facebook reveals cab share requests still being posted; if Mighty Cabs manages to turn into a success, perhaps in a few semesters, not a lot of people are going to be typing these posts anymore.