THE ORIGINS OF OPEN KOCHI CONCEPT
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 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 Kochi future-ready by bringing a sense of community and belonging onto the digital realm. Several public organizations, individuals and private service providers 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 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 develop a platform that aided these mobility service providers onto the envisioned interoperable system.
In the meantime, demand from local transport service providers 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) App and Yatri Partner (driver facing) app 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.
And this time, citizens of Kochi were invited to participate and give a spin to this service and provide their feedback. In a month’s time, positive reception from citizens, driver associations, public and private partners re-validated the hypothesis that a digital-driven multi-modal transportation is truly perceived to be a great value that a city can provide its citizens with.
THE NETWORK LAUNCH
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, on 23rd July, 2021, the interoperable network mission was rolled out ready to serve the citizens of Kochi in a way that befits their aspirations for themselves and their local communities. KOMN currently has Yatri App and Stayhalo Telegram bot which enables customers to book cabs in Kochi and view Kochi Metro Rail schedules.
Yatri Partner App now has 1200+ registered taxi drivers. Yarti has recorded 15,000+ customer searches, with hundreds of taxi rides per week. Stayhalo enables a customer to avail services from KOMN through a simple chat on a messenger platform (telegram) they have already installed. It is expected that users will also be able to book water ferry rides on the consumer-facing apps of KOMN in the coming months.
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!