We recently caught up with Ankit Khanna, Founder of En Route the Rideshare on Demand app.
How did you come up with the idea for En Route?
It came to me when I was living in Nice, France. You probably know that France is notorious for public services strikes. This also affects trains and buses, which I used to commute to work, as I didn’t own a car. It was really frustrating to see cancelled and delayed services when you arrive at the station as they were our only means to get to work.
At the same time, you had so many commuters driving to work with multiple empty seats in their cars. I suspected that most of these people lived close to me and were probably going close to my office. But I didn’t personally know them or how to communicate with them.
And that’s when the idea for En Route came to me. What if we removed this barrier of communication for daily commuters? What if we provided a real-time service to connect drivers and passengers going in the same direction without them needing to personally know each other?
What challenges did you run into while developing your idea?
There were quite a few. To start with, researching whether it was a problem specific to me or whether it was widespread enough to pursue further. Our research showed that a significant percentage of people face similar issues but don’t necessarily do anything about it.
Another one was continuing my day job while working on the idea. You can imagine the number of near-sleepless nights I had to go through. Also, I was doing everything alone at the time. So, it wasn’t always easy but my wife was very supportive.
The biggest challenge probably was the software development itself. I had outsourced to an external company on a fixed contract but the quality wasn’t good enough. In hindsight, I think outsourcing doesn’t really work for a start-up if you don’t have much face-to-face interaction.
Are you still working on the app alone?
No, I have a business partner named Kevin. We complement each other’s skill-set. He is the technical expert while I bring my business and product management skills to the table.
Why would people want to use the En Route app?
En Route is an app for commuters. Driving your car alone to work is expensive. Why not share those spare car seats with someone and save some money? At the same time, if you are a passenger who is sick of overcrowded & delayed/cancelled trains and buses, En Route will give you reliability and convenience. As more and more people use the app, commuting costs will go down, roads will become less congested, and our carbon footprint will decrease.
Where are you now with your business?
We’ve just launched the beta version for iOS and Android but we plan to keep building new features that will bring significant value to our customers. We have started by targeting business parks since the app relies on a significant number of people going in the same direction. We still encourage all commuters to try the app.
What advice would you share with someone starting up today?
When you start, it isn’t as glamorous as it looks. Be prepared to put in the hard yards! Don’t go at it alone. It will feel lonely and you need someone to keep you motivated. Find someone who complements your skill set. Finally, be patient. The start-up world has a long and uncertain road with many bumps along the way.