Posted Wednesday 18 January 2012
Kingston University computing graduate Jayesh Hirani is test-driving his business prowess with the launch of Safer Minicabs - a free app for smartphones that gives late-night partygoers a quote for a licensed minicab in as little as 90 seconds.
Launched late last year, the app already covers parts of north, south east and central London, and a company in Kingston is the latest to sign up to the scheme. To book a minicab, smartphone users simply type in their location and destination and the mobile app sends the request to registered local minicab firms who then bid for the booking. "There is an element of competition for the companies signed up, so we can offer the customer the option of choosing the fastest or cheapest quotation," Mr Hirani said.
Once a quote is accepted, the customer is sent more details about the minicab, including vehicle type, colour, contact name and a booking reference. "I wanted to find a system that meant people didn't have to read out their personal details in public - like their home address or mobile number. This system keeps all the booking details private and secure," Mr Hirani explained.
The enterprising graduate came up with the idea while he was studying software engineering at Kingston University. "I am fascinated by satellite mapping technology and I wanted to invest in a business that would one day combine that interest with a wider benefit to society," the 25 year old said.
Principal lecturer Dr Darrel Greenhill said Jayesh had shown a real aptitude for programming as well as business when he came up with the idea at university. "Working on the prototype in his final year, he was enthusiastic not just about the technology needed to get it to work but also about creating the business model in which it would be used," he said.
Being one of 20 winners of Kingston University's Graduate Enterprise Awards in 2009 was a real turning point for Mr Hirani and his app. "That success convinced me that I had a genuinely good business idea and it gave me the confidence to get out there and begin the long task of setting up on my own," he said.
However, the Wembley-based entrepreneur warns that budding business moguls should be prepared to put in a lot of hours to get their business idea moving. "I've worked on this solidly since I left university, and there is still a long way to go. The business is always evolving, and I'm getting more ideas all the time, but you have to know when to call in outside expertise - you can't do it all on your own."
Mr Hirani is working with experts across many fields - from marketing to software development and digital media companies to potential investors too. "I'm meeting more and more licensed minicab firms to get them to sign up to the service. Our aim is to have 10,000 drivers in the system so we can provide cover right across the capital, and then thousands more so we can cover the whole country," he said. The app, currently designed for iPhone and Android operating systems, is also being developed for Blackberry users.