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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Startups like Zippr, wWhere using short codes to overcome obsolete addressing systems

BENGALURU: As ecommerce and last-mile delivery services are making their way into the daily lives of urban India, the holes of the country's largely incomplete address system are starting to show. Any end customer can relate to the lamentable experience of trying to communicate directions to a government employee or a delivery boy armed with jewellery, a letter from a loved one, or the day's lunch.

Seeing this, startups such as Zippr and wWhere have come up to "revolutionise" the location data industry, overwriting obsolete addressing systems with specific short codes that, if all goes according to plan, are to be shared with governments and delivery providers alike to facilitate hassle-free and efficient services.

Zippr lets users create random four-digit, four-number codes that identify any dwelling, slums included. "We want to produce a standardised form of address, and then  integrate services from both the private sector as well as the government to provide services for citizens," said Parikshith Reddy, marketing and partnerships director. The company, which has raised Rs 6 crore from the Indian Angel Network, has already run pilots with governments in Hyderabad and Vijayawada to roll out its coding system, and is in talks with governments in Delhi and Mumbai.

Another startup, wWhere, allows users to share locations real-time, using GPS technology that is accurate down to a five-meter radius. "We wanted to eliminate postal addresses altogether using the mobile," said founder and CEO Ritam Bhatnagar, who raised angel funding in March.

Such solutions are not new to India. MapmyIndia, founded in 1992, had already been assigning short codes to physical addresses for years, according to the company backed by Nexus Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

"It's like a vanity code that people can easily remember, which has its value, because you can't remember my GPS coordinates. But the fundamental problem of geocoding is still there," said Karthee Madasamy, vice president and managing director of Qualcomm Ventures, which has backed MapmyIndia.

"The pain point of users remain finding their way to the actual address in a fast and safe manner, which is only achieved by superior maps with house number data," said Rakesh Verma, managing director of MapmyIndia. "One of the major bottlenecks in the implementation would be the herculean task of mapping these codes to all existing physical addresses. The other would be to see how much traction can be found from industry and consumers alike."

For the time being, third-party logistics players are experimenting with their own initiatives to address the geocoding issue, which has devised technology to be able to identify localities solely based on pin codes to improve routing. "There is no specific use case (of these codes) for us unless these codes start getting adopted by ecommerce companies and get passed on to us," said CTO Kapil Bharati.

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