In the summer of 2020, much like in the rest of the world, public transport in Kerala paused due to COVID. That pause was also an opportunity to reflect and reimagine public transport in the new digital era. A multi-modal and seamless public transport is a catalyst for nurturing, both, a strong sense of community and a strong local economy.
The Government of Kerala, through its Kerala Metropolitan Transport Authority Bill, established a clear intent to integrate multiple modes of public and private transport. The mission – provide its citizens with seamless multimodal mobility made available as a digital service. To realize the open network concept, Kochi Metropolitan Transport Authority has adopted a set of open specifications called Beckn protocol.
Achieving this mission would make its cities future-ready by bringing its sense of community and belonging onto the digital realm. Kochi city was shortlisted for the pilot.
An open-invitation was extended to help build an interoperable system for the community of citizens in Kochi. Several private and public service providers, individual citizens from the local communities enthusiastically volunteered to get this mission off-the-ground.
To get this mission off the ground, two key roadblocks were identified by the leadership team.
One, the technology-savvy mobility service providers work as stand-alone systems warranting riders to make themselves aware of the service providers and access them separately. There was little or no integration to help bring to life the concept of a truly integrated, multi-modal and seamless journey.
The solution to this problem lay in developing interoperability. Interoperability between various mobility service providers, both public and private transport agencies covering mass transit systems, intermediate public transport, micro mobility and other mobility-driven service providers. To enable interoperability in such an open mobility network required a commitment from key network participants to adopt a set of common technology specifications. To support this endeavour, Kochi Metropolitan Transport Authority has adopted a set of open specifications called Beckn protocol.
Two, there were a few mobility services providers with no existing technology backend. The solution to this lay in bringing together voluntary technology development partners who developed an open-source platform that aided these mobility service providers onto the envisioned interoperable system.
In the meantime, demand from taxi associations to launch the Kochi Open Mobility Network increased. This, definitely, served as a major motivating factor for a host of other volunteers to step in.
JusPay, a technology company, volunteered to join forces with KMTA and start addressing these roadblocks. Months later, A rider-facing app called Yatri was conceptualized and an alpha version of the app was launched. In October 2020, Kochi was able to witness a pilot of the Kochi Open Mobility Network via the Yatri App with 50+ early-adopter drivers.
The pilot provided the missing link. On-the-ground feedback from drivers themselves on features the app must have in order for it to become a digital window to limitless opportunities for drivers. By March 2021, a beta version of the Yatri Rider (consumer facing) Application and Yatri Partner (driver facing) Application were up and ready.
Almost a 1000 drivers across 5 major driver communities were onboarded and ready to perform on-field tests of the full-fledged interoperable system that was envisioned in the summer of 2020.
By May 2021, all hands were on deck to validate how this concept would work at scale with a rigorous at-scale testing of the infrastructure across technology, community and marketing tracks.
Armed with this vote of confidence, a few weeks from now, the interoperable network mission will be rolled out ready to serve the citizens of Kochi in a way that befits their aspirations for themselves and their local communities. Public utilities are about fairness, value and scalability.
We will have a lot of learnings along the way, we are sure about that. But, with the collective will of the citizens, leaders and organizations, we believe we have what it takes to bring this noble mission to life. We are sure about that too!
“I am very happy to be overseeing the launch of Kochi Open Mobility Network soon. It is a world’s first open and inclusive mobility network of its kind and Kerala leads it with pride. Our mission is two-fold: provide a valuable community service to our citizens and provide a means of and self-sustenance for our mobility service providers. It is fair. It is transparent. It is digital. It is for our community.”
– Jafar Malik IAS, CEO, Kochi Metropolitan Transport Authority
“The bus auto-rickshaw taxi sector is one of the most sought after industries in the self-employed sector and the taxi sector is the most exploited. Kochi Open Mobility Network is a joint venture between the Kochi Metro and the government at the government level to address the problems in the sector through continuous trade union intervention. There is no doubt that the living standards of the workers who become members of it will be high. Therefore, the cooperation of all workers is expected”
– Harilal K J, Ernakulam Jilla Car Drivers Union, Joint Secretary CITU Ernakulam District
“For the first time in India, the Kochi Metropolitan Transport Authority’s online platform will bring together all public transport systems under one umbrella. This system will be useful to the auto and taxi drivers working in this sector as well as to the general public”
– Shiyas C A, Treasurer, Drivers Cooperative Society (DCS)
“The transport system can be equated to the blood flow in the human body. We need a mode of transportation that runs on time and is free of blocks. The need of the hour is to solve the unscientific practice of the movement of different vehicles at the same time in the same direction. With the help of modern technology, different modes of transport can be brought under one unit. Kochi Open Mobility Network is an initiative led by KMTA, aimed at the awakening and comprehensive upliftment of the public transport system in Kochi”
– Manojkumar Kunnath, Secretary Kotta Online Drivers Association (KOTA)
“KOMN will be extremely helpful in combining public transportation services such as taxis, autos, metro trains and buses. This network will be especially useful for taxi drivers in the unorganized sector to free themselves from corporate exploitation”
– Shajo Jose C, Founder, Yellow Cab Drivers Society