Founded by Amit Lakhotia, Park+ is a Delhi-based start-up that wants to change the way middle-class and upper-class Indians park their cars. It provides a suite of solutions around parking and more. With the help of Park+ app, users can discover parking, book their slot as well as other services such as car wash and pay digitally. They also provide RFID based security solutions to apartments and corporate setups. Currently, Park+ has 300+ sites where its systems are installed. In a conversation with CXO Outlook, Amit Lakhotia discusses his entrepreneurship journey, challenges he faced, his plans and much more.
The problems I try to solve through Park+
The entrepreneurial journey has been exciting and monumental. I established Park+ with the simple realization that the average individual in a big city in India spends too much time looking for a safe parking space. Since this causes unnecessary stress and fuel wastage, I believe we can solve this problem with technology. So, Park+ was launched as a smart parking solution where individuals could book their parking slots like they book movie tickets.
Two of the marquee VCs in India – Sequoia Capital and Matrix Partners, came onboard with us with an 11mn USD funding round. Also, we got backed by key internet entrepreneurs, including Deep Kalra, Rajesh Magow, Ashish Hemrajani, Kunal Bahl, Kunal Shah, etc., to name a few.
The founding story of the Park+
This idea germinated at Paytm office. There were limited employee parking spaces within the office. There was a Noida authority parking close by which also had few parking slots. So every employee would come with the car to the Paytm office in the morning, check with the guard if there is space in office parking. On hearing no, then he would go to Noida authority parking and check if there are slots. Again hearing no there, he would go to 2-3 more places, and in the end, he would end up parking the car on the road. Most employees would end up wasting 15-20 precious mins every day in the morning. It became more embarrassing when your office visitors struggled for parking! ‘
Then it looked like it is the story of most corporate employees. Was there a way to check on an app which tells you parking spaces availability real-time around your office and save the whole morning stress and time wastage!
There were several challenges that we initially faced. Since we are the first company to digitize parking in the world, we did not have any global benchmarks for inspiration. This has never been done before. We are solving a real-time, on-ground problem which required us to educate customers and clients so they could trust the solution. It is a tough problem to solve since customers who book parking need it immediately. So, we needed to make sure our demand and supply were aligned before we go live.
There are also internal issues like hiring the right people, making sure concepts are turned into on-ground solutions, and people are excited about the solution. When you just start out, there are organizational issues to address, such as hiring, performance evaluation, setting processes, and simultaneously you are also building your business from the ground up. Everything can get a bit overwhelming, but challenges are easy to overcome with passion.
Services that Park+ offer today
Park+ has created a technologically advanced parking service that allows users to discover parking spaces, book their slots, and pay digitally. It is a seamless way to save time on looking for parking spaces, especially in the bustling city.
We also have elaborated corporate solutions to simplify parking for employees. Finding a parking space is one of the biggest issues today an employee faces every morning. In nearly every trip, you spend 10-15 mins figuring out parking. This is wastage of his time, fuel and builds individual stress. This is his first experience in the office in the morning, and it’s bad! Most of this stuff is managed manually and inaccurately today.
Building on this, we have been working actively in Delhi NCR acquiring parking slots and cars. We digitize parking slots in the corporate buildings as well as places around these offices. We have been using a host of technologies – RFID, camera-based, sensors and handheld devices (depending upon the location) to detect the real-time availability of parking slots. This allows a corporate employee to discover real-time availability of parking space on our app within his office and its vicinity.
Right now, we have about 3,00,000 cars with tags in NCR and about 50,000 slots. Some of the biggest corporate setups like Brookfield, DLF, Spaze, Vatika, SP Infocity are already working with us. We are going live with Hiranandani and Equinox in Mumbai and with Divyashree in Bangalore. All employees of Royal Bank of Scotland across India carry our tags on their cars.
When India entered the ‘Unlock’ phase during the COVID-19 outbreak, the focus on digital, contact-less solutions skyrocketed. At this juncture, Park+ launched tech-led social distancing solutions for malls. The service helped malls to track and regulate the entry and exit of customers in malls and stores within the malls by simply scanning a QR code from the customer’s phone. Further allowing a seamless mall-going experience, the service allows customers to book their slots and plan their visit to maintain the number of people inside malls at any given time. Ticketless and contactless parking solutions were also facilitated at malls.
Park+ was also the first company in India to collaborate with the Government of India’s Aarogya Setu app. Through this association, Park+ leverages the individual COVID-19 safety status provided by Aarogya Setu to enhance the efficacy of its social distancing solutions created to curb the spread of the virus. Now, Park+ can deploy the open QR code technology powered by the Aarogya Setu app and all customers need to do is get their Aarogya Setu QR code scanned before entering the mall or a store.
Recently, we also launched a solution where individuals can check their challan status and set reminders when they are near the last day of payment. This is aimed at reducing the number of challans that are occurring on roads in cities. Plus, the solution also reminds car owners about their PUCC renewals to avoid fines.
The team that I work with
Most of the senior leadership at Park+ comprises of individuals who have worked with me previously and fairly relevant experience in scaling their functions earlier. Hitesh runs engineering for us. He was leading the Paytm wallet tech team and helped it scale to a few million transactions per day. Capt Apurv ran the business for us and was with me at MakeMyTrip building B2B distribution earlier. Geetika was also with me at MMT and runs HR for us now. Prasad worked on merchant acquisition at Paytm and leads alliances for us. Ankit comes from Indus Towers and runs operations for us.
Mistakes I made and Lesson I learnt
One of the most important things I’ve learned is that it is crucial to hire a recruiter from day 1. We tried to make do with consultants in the beginning, but the quality of hires was not up to the mark. So, it is important to bring on board a recruiter who understands and sells your vision to candidates. Moreover, recruitment is much faster, with an in-house HR leader. Apart from this, I have learned that training every sales team member, even senior folks, is necessary. We must set the right expectations from day one to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Milestones during the years of my journey as an entrepreneur
There have been several significant milestones for us since starting out. Onboarding massive clients like Brookfield and Vatika and managing parking for all their properties is perhaps the foremost achievement for us. We were also thrilled and delighted when we reached 1 lakh app downloads.
More recently, the amazing uptake of our social distancing solutions by major malls across India was a great accomplishment. Park+ is the first app in India to integrate Arogya Setu flow in its flow. This helped in building a lot of confidence in users coming in the malls.
Education and my life as a student
I did my bachelor’s degree in computers from Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology and pursued an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad. During my computer engineering course, I took a strong liking to code and invested a lot of time on it. Today, this helps me deeply understand the technological aspects of the business and provide my input where required.
Further, I used to manage running the IIMA souvenir store and managed to turn it around from losses to a small profit within 10 months. Running the souvenir store helped me understand that I like running a business more than anything else. This way, I realized you must do what you love and do it passionately.
People influenced me professionally
Deep Kalra, Founder & Group Executive Chairman, MakeMytrip – he was my first boss after my IIM stint. He is an inspiring individual in that he believes in giving people a fair chance to make mistakes and grow. Even when I was fresh out of IIM, he allowed me to build the business. He understood that I would take some time to find my footing, but he saw the potential. Even now, he is always available as a mentor and is the first person I turn to for advice before making any big career moves.
Plans for the Park+
Our short-term goal is to help people solve their parking problems and thereby, reduce stress save time, and make them feel good. Our overarching vision, however, is to improve the parking situation in societies and entire cities to help authorities with well-planned growth. In the long term, we will continue to build new solutions to become an all-encompassing solution-provider for car owners.