Sanghi's Rs. 200 cr. project for vehicle monitoring

Date: 26-04-1999 :: Pg: 18 :: Col: f

By P. Vikram Reddy

HYDERABAD A unique concept of networking national highways of about 32,000 km (besides important State highways) through ``a telecom and logistics support infrastructure project'', is taking shape. Called the Highway Automation System (HAS), it seeks to set up electronic kiosks at every 50 km distance on the highways as monitoring points, while the vehicles themselves are fitted with an electronic monitoring device called `vehicle set'.

With Indian roads spread across an estimated 50,000 km (including national highways), two million people using the highways, and 30 lakh transport carriers moving about, the project provides immense potential.

Behind this gigantic and first of its kind project in India, is a Hyderabad-based firm called Sparsh Communications, which commenced operations six years ago as an advertising agency, diversified into software development and is now emerging as a major innovator. And the brain behind the concepts being developed (some more innovative ones are in the offing) by the software division is Mrs. Anjana Sanghi, belonging to the Sanghi family, who is its managing director.

Another unique software being developed is the commodity intelligent system (CIS), which the company is keeping under wraps for the moment. Beyond saying that the CIS is linked to the functioning of market yards, and that it will be highly beneficial to the farming community, Mrs. Sanghi prefers to retain the veil of secrecy on the project. Other concepts being developed are the remote examination system (RES) and library information system.

The HAS, however, is going full steam ahead, and plans are on to have it inaugurated in Hyderabad. Truck operators are its primary target and beneficiaries also, as it helps optimise time utilisation and enhances revenues to operators. Under HAS, vehicles fitted with special devices monitored through communication kiosks set up on the highways.

Vehicles registered with HAS will be fitted with the device, each of which has a unique code number, enabling the kiosk to monitor the vehicle automatically as it passes the kiosk. The sets are hermetically sealed and tamper proof. The code number serves as the ID code number for identification of the truck. The antenna on the device sends and picks up signals as it passes the kiosks, automatically registering its presence.

The first station (kiosk) was set up in Vijayawada, some six months back. ``To cover 70 per cent of the traffic (trucks) we need to establish 266 kiosks across the country", Mrs. Sanghi said. Already, 250 are in place and 2,000 vehicles covered under the project. By May 15, 355 stations will be in place. She said about Rs. 35 crores had already been invested in the Rs. 200 crore project, for which 350 people are working, besides 120 in the software division.

Each station costs about Rs. 12 lakhs and a vehicle set about Rs. 3,200. But for a truck operator, subscription to HAS services is as little as Rs. 20 a day, which include tracking, messaging and `SOS' calls also in case of breakdowns and robberies. Messages via networked V-Sat are transmitted to all kiosks.

For a project cost of Rs. 200 crores, she says a customer base of one lakh truck operators would be the breakeven point, which the company hopes to have in a year's time. About 40 per cent of the 30 lakh trucks in the country are in the organised sector, making it that much easier to market the product. Talks are on with Bajaj, Gati (sampling being done), TCI (under finalisation), and some have been installed with Hyundai.

In future, value-added services are also planned such as tracking records (which big corporates can download) and electronic freight transfer (of funds) which eliminates necessity for truck drivers to carry large cash.

``In Sanghi itself we are paying at least Rs. 1 lakh daily as freight", she pointed out implying that drivers return to their destinations with that much of cash on person, making them targets for highway robberies.

The HAS will be a boon to the transport sector, by optimising utilisation of time schedules, ensuring continuous contact between the driver and the base office, besides alerting parent companies of any problems faced by drivers enroute. The inspiration of course was the global positioning system (GPS), but there is a sea of difference between the two. HAS is a system developed to suit the Indian road and communication infrastructure conditions or lack of them.

Basically meant for truck operators, spinoff effects can be felt by the corporates like efficient monitoring of stocks and optimising working capital utilisation. Corporates can dial Sparsh through modem and access and monitor the movement of their vehicles.

Incidentally, Mrs. Sanghi received the best entrepreneur award from the All India Motor Congress recently, for developing the HAS. Their network can take up to 25 lakh truck operators, she said. A big chunk of the investment will be going into transponders and own hubs, she said.

Newsbit furnished by:

A: NetShift Software Ltd.
A: Hughenden Yard, Marlborough, Wilts,SN8 1LT, UK
T: +44 (0)1672 511 094
F: +44 (0)1672 511 078
E: [email protected]

Thanks Anna!

Thanks Kinetic!

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