Ahmedabad-based myskoolbus is a unique application developed by Pooja Khemka and Preeti Agarwal to ensure the safety of children on school buses by tracking their location in real time.
In our run-up to Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, we focus on women from non-metro cities who have battled many odds to become entrepreneurs. ‘Small Town, Big Dreams’ pays tribute to their grit, determination and hard work. We start off with myskoolbus.
Born in a conservative Marwari family in Gujarat, Pooja Khemka, Co-founder of myskoolbus, deems herself lucky to have parents who stood by her in every endeavour. Despite some opposition, she joined college and later convinced her parents to allow her to study chartered accountancy.
Entrepreneurship happened to her quite by chance. Marriage and motherhood happened and a specific incident changed her life forever. Once, she was stuck in traffic and missed her son’s school bus. She couldn’t track the whereabouts of the bus as she was unable to reach the transport manager on the phone. The bus was on the move and it was a harrowing few moments until she located the bus.
Starting up myskoolbus
These tense moments sowed the seeds for myskoolbus, a school bus GPS-tracking application for parents that she started with her friend Preeti Agarwal. Pooja recounts, “Has anyone ever thought of the plight of a mother who is eagerly waiting for the arrival of her kids from school and they don’t show up on time? I have personally experienced that and the incident left me traumatised.”
Started in 2013 in Ahmedabad, myskoolbus leverages advancements in information technology and telecommunications like GPS mobile tracking, radio frequency identification (RFID), cloud computing and mobile apps to address different pain points. It gives real-time visibility to parents and institute authorities while alerting them on any deviation from the defined thresholds. In short, it ensures the safety of your children, while on the move.
Pooja explains why starting up in Ahmedabad was a good choice. “I am a homemaker, and for me to balance both family and business was very much essential. Apart from that, controlling costs like lower rents and cheaper resources since we are bootstrapped played a big factor. In addition, relationship and trust are key drivers of awareness and purchase in the small cities. I believe if you are able to carve a niche in a small town, you can corner the market by being the only one in the area,” she says.
Smaller town. Bigger challenges
Being a woman entrepreneur based out of a non-metro comes with its own set of challenges. Pooja bemoans the lack of support from local media and feels that startup stories come mostly from metros. “Also, convincing the clients that women-led startups can deliver long-term quality services at a competitive price was difficult. Communicating and convincing transport contractors and drivers was a major challenge,” she points out.
“Often, the men would come and tell me in Gujarati, ben aa tamaru kaam nathi (Sister, this is not your work), and I used to be upset to hear that. But with the support of my parents and husband, I overcame situations with ease to provide effective solutions to my clients.”
The sheer lack of technology-led pitching events in a city like Ahmedabad is also a major impediment when it comes to networking. However, Pooja is happy with the mentoring support myskoolbus has received from the Cherie Blair Foundation – London, Facebook’s SheLeadsTech programme and the Kalorex Group.
Within a short period, the response has been encouraging. “When we started, there were many people who challenged our venture for four months saying you cannot do it. It’s not a woman’s job. In fact, some school authorities also took us lightly. But now the naysayers have been converted into satisfactory clients,” says Pooja.
Future plans for myskoolbus includes working on transit surveillance with AI support to understand different situations that can arise during the journey like fights among students, misbehaviour or others. It is also planning to venture into individual women and child safety and tracking solutions that includes wristbands, safety bags, among others.
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