In a telephonic interaction with MediaNama, Rasik Pansare, co-founder and CMO of Get My Parking, talked about the parking problems in the country, as well as the regulatory, financial and organisational challenges a startup goes through having set up base in India.

Get My Parking (Agile Parking Solutions Pvt Ltd) is a digital platform which allows integration of parking equipment with mobile and cloud — this is especially useful for parking operators looking to digitise and car–owners looking to find empty parking spots in urban areas. The startup claims to be present in 4 countries and process 2 million transactions monthly. It also works with city governments to provide smart parking from the Smart City plans.

The following is a lightly edited, and at some instances, paraphrased transcript of our interaction. Emphasis has been added.

Get My Parking works with system integrators (technology providers), coordinating with government officials and including policy and taxpayer wishlists for smart parking in smart cities, according to Pansare. The company calls itself an end to end smart parking platform where, in order to get information about (manually operated) parking lots, the ecosystem has to be connected and getting live information from the on-ground parking lots. Pansare adds that his company wanted to digitise the parking industry in a frugal manner, because automated parking lots and technologies, like those in the West, are not financially viable in developing countries.

On how Get My Parking digitises a parking lot

(We) put a mobile app on every parking operator’s (mobile) system. Every transaction on the ground, every check in and out, every entry and exit of the parking is done on the mobile app. This data is sent to the platform, as well as the consumer-end app: that’s how the operator and consumer apps are connected to each other.

Pansare says that this is frugal because:

  • It doesn’t replace any humans who are doing this job (which would otherwise be very costly) and
  • Parking rates in India don’t really provide a return on the expensive investment of mechanising/automating parking systems and removing the human force.

The company provided the parking technology for and digitised the Kumbh Mela (parking) in Ujjain in 2016 because of which it caught the eye of Smart Cities and system integrators, Pansare adds.

“Working on a city level (for Smart Cities), we realized that we could integrate with all the existing parking hardware, and bring it on the same platform, make it talk to each other,” he says.

After comparing Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi, Pansare and team realised that statistically, Delhi had the largest parking market in India because it had the largest number of vehicles — Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai combined. The company’s technology is live in 320 locations in Delhi NCR.

There’s no such thing as ‘free parking’

Pansare says that a city or state’s biggest advantage in tying up with the company is the revenue generation. He adds that the short–of–money Indian cities and city governments can get money by charging for parking in a digitised and convenient manner. Although he does believe that if you’re going to charge a person money, it is better to give them good infrastructure, security and information.

“Only 2% of the Indian population owns a car, the rest 98% doesn’t. And government represents 100% of the population, so when government gives public land for parking in a reserved manner… and for no other public utilisation, the other 98% is paying for it. Because only 2% can use that public land that belongs to everybody. So why should I pay for it and what is the other 98% getting in return? That’s why it should be charged, that’s why there should be no free parking, the cost of free parking is too high. There’s no such thing as free parking,” Pansare says.

On regulations in the ‘reserving parking’ category

On the customer facing app, users can see where all authorised parking is available. [Parking] reservation is not yet activated because the current government rules do not allow for it. The Delhi government states that first–come–first–serve–parking is to be implemented. You have to be there specifically at the parking for you to get the spot. That’s why we still allow people to see where parking is available, but you may not be able to reserve the spot 6 hours in advance in Delhi. “In the other Smart City government projects we work on, as part of the project, the government has allowed reservation, or the facility is available there.”

On regulatory challenges in India

“We are a startup and we’d really like to work with government. But unfortunately, startups and government don’t go well together. Because government wants someone with an established reputation and bank balance and everything. Whereas a startup is a risky proposition,” says Pansare.

He explains that despite the number of startups wanting to work with the government and proposing solutions which the government seeks, the bureaucrats do not have an incentive to lower their eligibility criteria. Pansare says that the latest technology, which a country’s citizens want, is only available with startups, which the government cannot procure from, “and that’s the problem,” he adds.

On the confusion of whose policy applies

Pansare adds that startups are exempt from financial criteria only in central ministry procurement processes, not state government ones. It is confusing when there are smart purpose vehicles like Smart Cities (and municipal corporations) which do not follow the Startup India scheme or the central government rules but state policies instead.

“Some states have tried to overcome that by having their own state startup policy… The problem is that each state says that you have to shift your office to our state. Do you want innovation and technology to come to you, or do you want tax money to come to you? There’s a trade-off… Startups don’t have the resources for twelve offices in twelve states. You’re asking for this in a startup policy.”

“Let’s accept this. Our country needs more startups working with the government today. You already have good enough startups doing B2C direct consumer commerce, but it would be interesting if startups want to work with the government to advance our public policy and public dialogue and citizen involvement.”

On what the govt could do to be more startup friendly

Pansare says:

  • I would recommend some percentage of procurement to be mandated from startups in all government offices.
  • Some government agencies have a certain percentage that must come from Indian companies, startup companies only. But it’s not yet a norm everywhere.

“Sometimes the central government takes out a scheme, but the state governments don’t accept it, they have their own scheme. And so that’s a problem in a federal democracy like ours where we have different states having their own laws,” he adds.

Pansare says that the startup anonymises all its data, does not collect personally identifiable data and is GDPR compliant. He adds that the data it collects is not recorded or saved anywhere.

Get My Parking is open to expanding to Bangalore but also wherever it will find government tender opportunities. “…And it’s just a matter of time, maybe for Indian regulations to.. expedite their own process — we are an Indian company, we’d love to deploy our technology across the country. So we are here, waiting,” Pansare concludes.

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Transcribed by Aroon Deep