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Quick Commute: Meru Cabs leverages telecom for smoother services

August 31, 2012
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Apart of Meru Cab Company Limited, Meru Cabs was launched in Mumbai with 45 cabs in 2007. In another year, the company expanded its presence to Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru, where it has established partnerships with the city airports.

The company’s main investor is India Value Fund, a private equity company. India Value Fund, which has a corpus of over $1.4 billion, picked up an equity stake in Meru in 2006.

With a fleet of over 5,000 cabs across Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru, Meru was quick to recognise the potential of telecom as a strategic business tool. The aim was to establish a robust communication network, which assisted in handling large volumes of data across branch offices, track the fleet on a real-time basis and consolidate as well as standardise and streamline all business processes across locations.

tele.net takes a look at the company’s telecom-related initiatives…

Communications infrastructure

Telecom infrastructure has played an important role in Meru’s business growth. “We launched services five years ago. A strong IT and telecom system has been in place with all the required software and hardware components. This infrastructure has been developed over the years, and we have to regularly replace and upgrade the systems across offices,” says Nilesh Sangoi, chief technology officer, Meru Cabs.

The company uses a mix of wireline and wireless technologies. Over 500 employees and 5,000 cab drivers have access to the company’s communication system.

For its wide area network, Meru has opted for leased lines, which have built-in redundancy. The medium connects the company’s operations in each city to the central data centre in Mumbai. These leased lines are a combination of 2 MB and 45 MB links, provided by telecom partners including Bharti Airtel, Tata Teleservices Limited and Vodafone India.

The company has opted for three last mile technologies, which is deployed based on the location of the offices. In most cases, an optic fibre network is used for last mile access. Other locations use copper or wireless technologies.

Apart from telecom tools, multiple IT applications and platforms are being used – enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and dispatch systems. These function on the company’s last mile links. ERP has facilitated seamless flow of data and information across the company, thereby integrating all critical processes onto a single platform. More importantly, this business support system maintains an integrated database for operations related to supply chain management, financials, expansion projects and human resources.

“The CRM model has helped us in managing interactions with customers and clients, thereby improving sales prospects. It involves using technology to organise, automate and synchronise business processes, primarily for sales, marketing, customer services and technical support,” says Sangoi. The CRM module is aimed at identifying and adding new clients while retaining the existing ones and reducing the costs involved in marketing and client service.

The company also uses the GPRS facility to connect with cabs that utilise mobile applications. Oracle’s application platform, Siebel, and Aspect’s interactive voice response system are being used as well.

Challenges and benefits

The company faced a few challenges while setting up its communications infrastructure. According to Sangoi, unavailability of uniform GPRS coverage and systems, products and processes for the transportation industry were the major issues. Another challenge was ensuring compatible environmental conditions to incorporate in-cab technology platforms.

However, the communications infrastructure resulted in several benefits for the company. “Currently, our entire cab dispatch system runs on a single technology platform. We have achieved very high operational and technical efficiencies through the use of these systems,” Sangoi explains.

Net, net, modern IT and telecom infrastructure has helped the company reduce communication costs and improve its efficiency.

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