If you can walk 15 steps on Slater Road without landing on a pothole, you should thank your stars. If you can ride a bike on Andheri-Kurla Road during monsoons, you should be in the star cast of the next Bollywood bike flick.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that there are more craters on roads of Mumbai — India’s financial capital — than on the moon. And these numerous potholes cause huge traffic jams and serious accidents.
During this monsoon, the governing body Municipal Corporation’s pothole tracking website registered 1,500 complaints in just 10 days. But the government has turned a blind eye to the deplorable condition of Mumbai roads. Hence, a few responsible Mumbaikars (what the locals call themselves) got together to track potholes spread across the city.
This led to the idea of ‘Pothole Watch’, a mobile app to help Mumbaikars use their smartphones to report the GPS location of a pothole. This crowdsourced pothole monitoring tool will help authorities speed up the process of filling up potholes, avoiding a plethora of problems.
Cribbing won’t help, a solution will
Back in 2012, when Founder of Pothole Watch Rupesh Mandal was travelling in an auto rickshaw in Mumbai, he realised the appalling state of the roads. “I thought these potholes are like blank spaces on the road and there is a need to fill these blank spaces. Even our logo reflects this: blank space in ‘P_TH_LES’. But I could not do more as the idea required a team.”
“In 2013, I thought of at least booking the domain name. Clicked a few photos but nothing more happened as we needed a software developer to code the website. In May 2014, I shared the idea with a designer and a software developer and told them this project is for Mumbai but does not have any money involved at this stage. They volunteered to work and thus the team was formed,” Mandal told e27.
The project began as a satire on the sorry state of roads in the city to drive people’s attention towards this problem. The idea was to create stories around them with potholes as the protagonists. They also created a website, Fillinthepotholes.com, where fellow Mumbai citizens could share their own pothole experiences.
“The crowdfunding platform was selected to make this an inclusive project, spark conversations and include every Mumbaikar in creating a pothole free ride. Every small bit counts and by going the route of crowdfunding, we are making people part of the project right from the beginning. This will also validate the idea,” Mandal said.
“Certain aspects of the project such as web hosting, bandwidth and making it compatible across devices come at a cost. Hence, we needed crowdfunding to support the project,” he added.
Currently, the app is in the wireframing stage and in the beta phase it will be available for download on the website Fillinthepotholes.com. After testing, the app will be available on Google Play and Apple Store by April 2015.
The project is on crowdfunding platform Wishberry and aims to raise a target amount of US$1,953 (INR 1.2 lakh). It has already raised US$1,200 (INR 74,000) from nine people, with 43 days left in its completion (at the time of writing).
Plans with the funding
Most of the money will be used for the design and development, followed by bandwidth and hosting, production cost and promotions.
“We are in talks with strategic partners and NGOs to join hands with us. We are also looking for media partners and brands to associate with the project and help us in building the cause,” said Mandal.
Brands can invest and create a branded pothole story. “From their CSR budget, they can also fund the project. If a brand invests US$1,627 (INR 1 lakh), it gets a ‘powered by’ branding on the splash screen of the app for a year on first-come-first-serve basis. This project fits perfect for an automobile or tyre brand,” Mandal stated.
A common painpoint across the world
Potholes are a universal problem across the globe. Once the pilot project is successful in Mumbai, it will be scaled to other cities in the country. According to Mandal, people from any part of the world will be able to report potholes in their city or country to the concerned authorities through the app after it runs successfully in India.
“The final objective is to have a self-sustaining ecosystem consisting of people, authorities, brands, NGOs, strategic partners, which collaborates towards the solution and exists with a win-win model for all,” Mandal concluded.
There are several platforms across the world trying to address the problem. FixMyStreet does a similar job of reporting local problems such as potholes on road, dumping rubbish, etc. Potholes.co.uk is another independent website designed to help citizens assist the regional council, improve the state of local roads and claim compensation if vehicles have been damaged by potholes.