It has been exactly a week Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced to demonetize Rs 1,000 and Rs 500. Since then there has been an endless debate on the modus operandi of demonetization – there was a euphoric celebration over the government’s brave move, with many calling it a surgical strike on black money hoarders and corruption, while the money launderers are busy finding loopholes in the decision. But amidst all this hustle the common man is suffering as usual. People have become restless over the long queues outside banks due to a scarcity of Rs 100 denomination, and non-availability of the new notes in wider regions.
Necessity is the mother of invention – inspired by this; two Bengaluru-based entrepreneurs have done what comes naturally to them, Startup a solution. Manjunath Talwar and Abhijit Khasnis, co-founders of online recruitment platform, Hiree (recently acquired by Quikr), have launched a website named CashNoCash.com to help cash-strapped citizens locate the nearest functioning ATM, bank branch or post office. It is also being supported by Nasscom. Based on the crowdsourced information, the site helps users across India find the nearest ATM, bank or post-office to get insights on cash availability and waiting time in queues for cash exchange or withdrawal. It also offers users a chance to report this information back to the site thereby contributing to real-time updates at each mapped cash point.
“The scale of the problem is humongous. The government and financial institutions are doing everything they can. This is our team’s effort to help the cause by using technology and knowledge of the crowd. The support we’ve received is great, Quikr is a forward looking technology company and offers a stimulating and fertile environment for like-minded people.” said Manjunath Talwar and Abhijit Khasnis, Co-founders of Hiree – a Quikr company.
We had an interaction with both the co-founders on how location and geospatial technology has played an important in providing this unique solution in India. Here are the excerpts –
What kind of information are you using?
We use current location and pin code. We have two sources of information – Google that allows to search around certain locations. Second is crowd source approach where people can report the status of ATMs/ banks. We have around 60,000 locations of banks/ATMS/post offices. We have updated data from users on a real-time basis.
What is the base map of all ATMs? Who has provided you?
We are using Google APIs to get this data from the backend. They are geocoding and place APIs provided by Google. We are using map search APIs so that you can find ATMs /bank in the neighborhood.
How do you deal with crowdsourced data?
Generally, people are reporting with true data than the false one. Some may mark it incorrectly but a majority are doing right. It is core premises that people are trying to help each other. We are seeing the pretty accurate information. The system is on mutual cooperation. We never thought we would get huge traffic; we initiated it for social help. Few features might be missing. To give nearly accurate information we are updating all data and let the user decide which information to use. We are showing latest status and all the updates.
Are banks collaborating with you?
No support yet from banks so we figured out crowdsourcing is a better way.
How big is the team? Who developed the processing software?
We have a team of 8 members. We are ex-Hiree members who are now part of Quikr. We are the engineers and have design development members with us.
Does the response rate depend upon cities?
Our solution is location based; wherever you are it will give results. Metros are popular because of technology uptake.
How do you see the role of geospatial technology in CashNoCash.com?
Distance mean everything – if you find there is an ATM halfway closer than another one, then based on traffic conditions you may decide where you will go, which one is faster and easier to go. Traffic adds a lot to it. Geospatial is important. People are doing banking, mobile is helping a lot – an app can tell your nearest ATM/bank. Information has become more personalized. Our website does not ask for registration it just picks up your location and guide. That’s very different from old times.
Our solution is built around whole geospatial data that we have got from Google Maps and APIs, which is definitely important. Otherwise, in less time we couldn’t have given a quick solution.
After the demonetization hustle is over, what are your future plans?
No idea actually when it will get over. But I think the situation has improved as compared to last Thursday and we will continue to improve it, its matter of time before things settle down.
This is not meant to be a long lasting product, it’s for short-term needs. We will take are learning from here will decide where things go from here. Right now we are focused on solving this immediate problem.
We should not panic, that’s one of the reactions we are seeing. People are standing in queue every single day. It is also cool to see so many acceptances so quickly. It has been learning for us.
We are all part of Quikr. It is a social initiative by a group of volunteers from Quikr and fortunately, Quikr has agreed to support this further. Now we are receiving massive traffic, to handle that we need big servers, put multiple engineers, then scale up the team so Quikr is helping us out in that. So, what started as Quikr volunteer effort, now Quikr is going to overtake in better and larger way.