Nirmal Kumar – Founder and Managing Director, G-Auto
G-Auto: Providing World Class Tuk-tuk Service!
While in IIMA, Nirmal Kumar was like the majority of the students of his batch, hoping to bag a meaty role in the placements in a reputed MNC. However, one fine day, haggling with an auto driver over the fare being charged changed the course of his life. This 2008 batch graduate was overcharged while returning to campus from a restaurant. He felt cheated, and then a business idea came to him.
Nirmal Kumar entered into an agreement with the auto drivers who generally parked outside the IIMA campus. He assured them of free newspapers and a health-cum-personal insurance, for which he would spend out of his own pocket. In return, they had to promise to charge fair auto-fares. The idea clicked. Inaugurated by then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, G-Auto came into being in 2009.
Today, G-Auto’s revenues come from mixed sources, including the Government, Corporates and advertisements. With success and hence, access to more funds, Nirmal increased the facilities provided to auto drivers. Today, they also get benefits such as subsidized health care and education for their wards.
Q. How did G-Auto start? Where did you get the idea from?
A. From the gates of IIMA! When we went for our dorm dinner, our one way fare was Rs. 25, but on the way back the auto driver charged us Rs. 35. I refused to pay Rs. 10 extra because he was overcharging. And then he started shouting and talking very rudely. Then I started thinking how we could refine this system, and make it more reliable and trustworthy from the point of view of commuters. And that’s how G-Auto started!
Q. What were some of the challenges you faced and how did you tackle them?
A. Yeah, it was very difficult initially, because there was no ecosystem as such, where auto rickshaw drivers could be organized and there could be offered a reliable and safer auto rickshaw service. It was very new for the auto rickshaw drivers, working under one umbrella because as of now there is no brand differentiation in auto rickshaws anywhere in the country. It was the first time that someone tried to create brand differentiation in auto rickshaws and tried to bring auto rickshaw drivers under one umbrella and make them to work using meters, in a safe and reliable manner and not to create problems with commuters. It was very difficult to make them work according to your system.
It was also very difficult for us to convince passengers, because there was no existing system. It was difficult to make them aware of our system, and to convince them that we can provide them with a safe system.
We started giving the rickshaw drivers incentives such as financial security and social security, such as life insurance, medical coverage and training in how to deal with customers, to bring them on board. For customers, word-of-mouth helped us gain acceptance.
Q. G-Auto started plying in Delhi as well last year. What are your other expansion plans for the future?
A. We have some venture capitalists willing to invest in us, and we have a plan to reach 100 cities in the next 5 years! This is the only mode of transport common throughout the country, and hence our aim is to ultimately cover the entire country.
Q. If you had started Nirmal Foundation without an MBA from IIMA, do you think your journey would have been any different?
A. Yeah definitely. The IIMA degree and brand has given me lot of credibility. It has given me easy access to Corporates. Everywhere I go, people want to know about the project. Acceptability has increased because of the IIMA brand. IIMA also helped streamlined my thinking wherein I developed a proper plan and business model for my idea before starting.
Q. What is your most memorable experience at IIMA?
A. My entire IIMA journey was incredible. The dorm parties, the WAC run, late night dorm talks, the dorm bonding, section bonding and so many other things that I shall always remember!
Q. Any message for the present IIMA community?
A. Wake up the entrepreneur in yourself. Right now, bagging a top job might seem more attractive and glamorous, but ten years down the line an entrepreneur shall have greater satisfaction from his life. Right now the economy is buoyant, and hence it is an apt time for one to give fruit to his entrepreneurial ideas. Take the leap, and have faith.
Source: Alumni Cell IIMA