Safer Minicabs: Jayesh Hirani
The young entrepreneur on why all work and no play is a sacrifice worth making to start your own business
Company name: Safer Minicabs Website: www.saferminicabs.com Founder: Jayesh Hirani Age: 25 Based: London Date started: May 2009 (app launched in September 2011)
Tell us what your business does:
Safer Minicabs is a mobile app that allows customers to get minicabs for the cheapest or quickest fare with passenger safety in mind. Once the customer accepts the fare, drivers and vehicle details are displayed and the app has a panic button with live tracking of customer location during the journey. The Safer Minicabs app is currently available on Android and iPhone platforms with BlackBerry in the pipeline.
I set up Safer Minicabs to promote safe travel, by avoiding illegal minicabs and preventing customers from having to give out their name, address or telephone details over the phone, which could be overheard.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
The idea came in my final year at Kingston University, studying for my dissertation. I wanted to create something fun and challenging to do with GPS and mobile apps.
I am actively involved in social and community-related issues and knew that illegal minicabs were a major problem in the minicab industry, so I decided to tackle this issue by developing Safer Minicabs.
How did you know there was a market for it?
I knew there was a market for the product because our market research indicated it. Our unique selling point is that we promote safety in minicabs. Our mission is to reduce crime in the minicab industry.
We can and will do this by working alongside our supporting partners, which include Virgin Media, DLA Piper, Vodafone, Camden Council, Metropolitan Police Camden and UnLtd – the foundation for social entrepreneurs.
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What were you doing before starting up?
I was a contractor working in telecommunications as a mobile test engineer. I was responsible for ensuring products met a high standard before being released to customers.
My background is in software engineering, however the business has strong relations with several experienced owners of minicab firms.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I’ve wanted to be my own boss since having the worst experiences within organisations with terrible managers. This happened to me on two occasions so I felt it was time for me to go it alone.
I’ve always wanted to run a business and get involved at all levels – market research, developing the product, launching the product, marketing, legal, finance, handling operations and customer services.
What planning did you do before you started up?
I carried out a lot of research within the industry, which helped me understand the trade in more depth.
I also spoke to consumers who use minicabs and the companies who would eventually deliver the services.
How did you raise the money?
I didn’t really go through an official process of raising money, however I was given some grants and the rest of the money invested into the business was personal cash.
How did you find suppliers?
I do not want to disclose where my product is manufactured, due to competitors; however I can say finding suppliers to develop and build our products was difficult.
I eventually found my suppliers through my contacts’ contacts but I had to make a tough business call on who would be the right organisation to work with to deliver what we required.
Managing suppliers can also be an issue, but we appointed project managers and co-ordinators to ensure this was kept to a minimum.
What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them?
We have come across a number of issues developing the product, dealing with minicab companies and with the legal issues of doing things differently – both from a product and operational perspective.
We overcame most issues by going back to the drawing board to find a solution. Where the issue involved the product, it was dealt with by speaking to stakeholders.
How have you promoted your business?
We have promoted the business through traditional PR channels, as well as by utilising search engine optimisation (SEO) and Google AdWords. We also produced posters and leaflets to promote the app.
Our (forementioned) partners also helped but I feel PR has so far been the most effective way to promote the business.
How much do you charge?
The app is free to download and we take a commission of every fare from the company.
What’s the impact on your home life been like?
I haven’t really had a home life for the last two years. When starting out, you’ve got to understand that you need to work extremely hard to deliver everything you say.
That means no social life and no fun – just simply work, work and work until you get everything out there.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?
The primary difficulty for us has been finding the right contacts and specific expertise to help us progress. We found them eventually but it was a challenge.
What was your first big breakthrough?
The first big breakthrough was when customers started downloading, using and making bookings.
Of course securing our key partnerships was also a major breakthrough – with very positive results.
What would you do differently?
When developing the product, I would have ensured that I had a fully mapped product journey, with every detail planned – right down to the nitty gritty.
That would have really helped to deliver a robust product, quickly and efficiently.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
I would say keep on networking and ensure that you know what you want from the networking events – for example what type of people you want to meet.
Do your homework before you go to events if the event has lists of attendees and don’t stop networking because you feel you have everything you need. You never know, someone you meet could be a huge help to your business in the future.
Finally, find yourself a mentor. You need mentors to help you on your way to success. They will challenge you and ensure you are going in the right direction.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
We want to be global in the next five years and have plans to launch another five products. We currently have those in the pipeline but ensuring that all our products become global is really important.