As a life-education faculty in various schools in India, I am closely involved with the social action projects done by the kids. These social action projects that the high-school students are expected to do as part of the curriculum for Integrating life- enabling evolutionary excellence program has been giving me goosebumps. Every child presents their small social work that they do for about 40 hours during their academic year. The kind of impact it creates, the joy and satisfaction they showcase is mind-boggling. And one day I asked myself that if a student can create such amazing impact on the society through just a school project, with all my background and experience, what am I contributing and doing to this world.
After having travelled over 13 countries, one of the common threads of discussion from many of my friends boiled down to bad roads and traffic in India. My own team members had broken arms and legs due to pothole and bad road accidents. A close friend of my lost his 20-year-old daughter in a pothole accident.
All these key triggers gave birth to PotHoleRaja®. I started looking at how one can make a difference to our road infrastructure more so potholes. Initial research was all about how globally roads and potholes are managed. This gave me good insights to products, materials, methodology, engagement of government, citizen participation, technology utilization and many other aspects.
Hard Facts About Road Safety and Roads in India
- Road safety is one of the biggest concerns around the world and more so in India.
- 150,000 plus people die on road and about 40000+ because of potholes.
- In the year 2015-16, 800 people died from terror attacks but more than 3000 died because of potholes.
- Along with life loss there are several other serious impacts of potholes that include – vehicle damage, inconvenience to other commuters, environmental and overall economic impacts are very significant.
- The current methods and practices adopted to repair and maintain roads are very old and traditional which has not been helpful and innovative. Contractors, politicians and bureaucrats take this as an opportunity for corruption and misuse of government funds.
- The material and methods are not eco-friendly and conducive for long term sustenance.
- There is no citizen and organization engagement in the road infrastructure repair and maintenance.
- There is little or no public private partnership and corporate social responsibility in the overall development of roads infra more so in state and city limits.
- Use of Plastic waste and crumb rubber is not capitalized for roads repair and maintenance
PotHoleRaja® focusing on road infrastructure management specifically targeting pothole and road safety issues is a unique and one its kind business model. The venture focuses on making roads pothole free and safer for commute by leveraging public, employees and organization engagement in identifying, reporting, tracking, and fixing them. The enterprise’s initiative of engaging employees of various organizations under the corporate social responsibility initiatives with an objective to provide safer public roads has created a big change and movement in the CSR and employee engagement space. PotHoleRaja® App, reporting and tracking phone number +91 814 POTHOLE is well known to the masses across India. Media coverages, publicity, social media and word of mouth spread of the initiative have enabled this to go viral.
PotHoleRaja® receives inputs on potholes & road issues on their website / WhatsApp / App or calls from public, employees and volunteers. This updated with pictures and GPS location is tracked, measured and assessed on feasibility of fixing the same. Based on the location and number of issues mapped, prioritization of each issue is shared and discussed with local companies, associations, business houses to engage their employees as volunteer to fix the same. These local bodies/companies also raise funds under their CSR schemes and/or extend donations for pothole fixing. PotHoleRaja® creates events on pothole management by engaging all the volunteers appealing them to join hands to fix potholes and make roads safer. Typically, these events last for about2 to 3 hours. These are held during early morning or late night or weekends depending upon volunteer availability. This enables volunteers to avoid any impact on their normal day to day routines And at the same time volunteer for making roads safer for themselves as well as for others.
Another uniqueness of this social enterprises is the material and method adopted to fix the potholes and roads. Use of eco-friendly cold asphalt mixed with plastic waste and emulsified crumb rubber. This product is a ready to use asphalt which are stored in 25kg bags for ease of use. There is no technical training or understanding that is needed for anyone to fix the potholes using this method. The process of fixing a pothole is simplified and non-hazardous that enables even a school child to do ion their own. Volunteers of all age group join hands to fix potholes and road issues. This video will enable an understanding of how to fix potholes in 3 simple steps.
PotHoleRaja® under the GroundReality Enterprises is one of its kind social venture in India and no other firm is doing the same on this scale and in this context. There are few NGOs who are in creating awareness & education on Road safety. However, these act more as grievance cells. They are not solving the issues. Educational institutes under their trusts are doing research work related road safety in both method and material related matters. Take for example, IIT Bombay, that is working on technology to identify potholes and road safety issues using mobile sensor technology. However, they are more academic and research oriented and not making any solutions to fix issues.
This necessitated creation of PotHoleRaja®® that offers solutions on road safety using integrated research and practice, leveraged through citizen, societal and corporate engagement. The key stakeholder for PotHoleRaja® are Association / Companies / Builders / Industries / Tolls / Public / Company employees / Transport drivers along with PotHoleRaja® team- both direct and volunteers. These stakeholders are directly and indirectly enabling safer roads.
Achievements of Pothole Raja
- 5000+ potholes fixed out of the 7500+ reported,
- 500+ signboards on road safety,
- 4000+ cat eyes,
- 20+ mirrors,
- 20+ solar blinkers,
- 1000+ volunteers covering over 5000+ volunteering hours
- 12000+ school children road safety education.
- 20+ CSR interventions including working with top 5 automobile companies in the world.
- 300 KM+ Roads coverage.
- 4 cities and expanding.
- 60+ media coverages – Radio, TV, Newspaper, Web channels, Blogs and many other social media coverages
- NRDC- Ministry of Science and Technology- Incubation for plastic waste and rubber research for road infra
- Recognized by Startup India, Maharashtra government startup competition & innovation hubs as top 100 companies, Top 25 companies from WhatsApp Challenge, consecutively awarded as the best volunteering initiative in India by iVolunteer and many other accolades
PotHoleRaja® is not only enabling public roads to be safer but also extending safety of private roads. Close to 20 to 25% of roads in most metro cities in India are private roads. With an average of 10000 kms of road per city that works out to be about 2000 kms of private roads. They also have the same issue of road repair and maintenance. This opportunity is tapped by leveraging the unique PotHoleRaja® approach, material and method. Currently 200+ kms of private roads are maintained by PotHoleRaja®.
PotHoleRaja® also engages transgenders and underprivileged men and women for labor works in private roads that include most of Industrial areas, tech Parks, toll roads, factory complexes, Resorts, Hotels, Residential Complexes, Metro & Flyover projects, Hospitals, Educational institutes and others.
Vision – To make our Roads pothole free and fix any within 3-5 days for safer commute.
- Enable and empower transgenders (at least 500) to take pothole fixing & road safety as an alternate profession by 2020
- Utilize 500 tons of plastic waste and crumb rubber by 2020 for road repair
- Create 1 to 2 KMS of solar roads using PotHoleRaja® GRID technology by 2020
- Have PotHoleRaja® initiative as a critical part of employee engagement initiative in min. 1000 companies by 2020
- Have commercially available “Do-It-Yourself” Kits for ensuring road safety – potholes, signboards, zebra crossing, markings, cleaning and other self-help tools by 2019 pan India and 3 other countries by 2020
- Make all the metro cities of India pothole free and fix any within 3-5 days by 2020.
- 10 major cities of the world to be pothole free by 2023
- Have 10+ state govt. use PotHoleRaja® Technology, Approach and Model for their state’s road safety and pothole mgt. by 2020
- Have 1000+ private properties to take this approach and make their properties pothole free and fix any within 3-5 days with a management metric “POTHOLE FREE ZONE” by 2021
- Capitalize CSR funding ~ Rs. 10 Crore to enable adoption of roads by private users and make our roads pothole free and safer by 2021
- Crowd funding contributing at least 25% of the value spent for fixing potholes and other road safety issues by 2021 in India.
- Create at least 1000+ change agents who will drive this initiative PAN India to enable higher citizen participation with social responsibility by 2021. Have 100+ change agents around the world by 2023
The journey of an entrepreneur in India is very uniquely positioned. The kind of growth, economic value proposition, social connect to business are all evolving and progressing. The orientation of entrepreneur to not only create business proposition but also to create social impact is becoming more lucrative. The number of companies registered as a social enterprise is growing by more than 20-30% year-on-year. Business models for a social venture both ‘For-Profit’ and ‘Not-For-Profit’ are radically changing and challenging the status quo.
The support systems for incubating, accelerating and investing in social enterprise is also on rise. Most leading B-Schools and other higher education institutions of repute including IIM, IIT, IISC are all supporting social ventures, from academic, research as well as incubation support perspectives. Many private incubation and government startup support initiatives encourage and provide multiple avenues for social entrepreneurs to leverage on the benefits and create products and services for social impact. Startup-India connects with many organizations, both technology-based and others, for giving access to latest technology, platforms and subject matter expertise. Hence it becomes possible for entrepreneurs to get subsidized and easy access to technology, mentors and business platforms.
Most state governments in India also have their startup support innovation and incubation cells to engage with startups with special focus on social enterprises. Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, UP and many other large states have established startup support cells which are enabling the startups to engage with the government bodies to also leverage their product and services for their state level uplift of social challenge.
As the journey of road safety from PotHoleRaja® is just beginning to spread around India and other countries, there are many change agents, people who are socially responsible connecting and willing to explore how they can add value to society. The number of calls and enquiry for how to make their roads safer and pothole free has seen a spike of nearly 10 times in the last 2 years. This is clear sign of a mindset shift and a growing belief that change can happen at a large scale when you have a strong clear purpose beyond just business.
A social enterprise orientation to make a difference to society with clear business models for sustainability, scalability and large-scale growth with a combination of technology, right eco-friendly methods and materials and the right set of people with clear vision would make a big difference.
About the Author
Prathap Bhimsen Rao’s life has been one that is filled with immense learning, experience & exposure. As a child, he was always interested in sports, adventure and travel. He went to win the ‘Best Cadet of Indian Air Force’, under the National Cadet Corps, that was awarded by then Prime Minister of India. Prathap has represented his country as a youth globally at a very young age. After a successful stint with Indian Airforce as a fighter pilot, Prathap joined the corporate world. He went on to become one of the youngest Vice Presidents of large MNCs like HP and Hewitt. After serving various corporations successfully, Prathap embarked upon his entrepreneurial journey. Since then, he has been serial entrepreneur, and has founded four start-ups, been involved in two mergers and has been actively taking-up advisory and consulting assignments. His social venture PotHoleRaja® -Pothole Management initiative with a vision “To Make Indian Roads Pothole Free and fix any pothole within 3-5 days for safer commute” has catapulted him to a whole new realm altogether. He is author to three Books, fifty plus blog articles and several research papers. He has been a key note speaker in various forums and conferences. He has also been a TEDx speaker, sharing his journey of PotHoleRaja® social venture. Prathap is also is credited with training thousands of managers and leaders from across the globe.
Prathap is competitive sportsman has won state level Gold, Silver & Bronze medals in 25 mt and 50 mt Pistol shooting competitions recently. He has gone rappelling at 15000 feet face down at Buran Ghati Himalayan Trek and has been team manager and coach for the Paralympic Shooting Team of India for the Paralympic Shooting World Cup, 2017 held at Bangkok. Prathap is widely traveled and till date has visited more than 13 + countries, meeting thousands of people, learning cultures, history and human mankind that he feels has been instrumental in shaping him. Prathap considers his life’s vision as “Live, Love, Learn and Leave Legacy”.