Setting the Wheels of India’s Bus Industry in Motion

In 2005, design engineer Phanindra Sama was forced to spend Diwali alone as he had been unable to buy a bus ticket to his hometown, despite having gone to several travel agents. Frustrated, Sama wondered why not all travel agents could confirm a booking, and that’s when he grasped that one of the main problems of India’s bus travel industry at that time was that travel agents did not have all the necessary details about bus operators.

Sama realized that an online, centralized ticketing agency, where bus operators could share information such as seat availability and fares, was the solution. In addition, such a service would allow passengers to book their tickets more easily. Hence, Sama spent that holiday season working on his idea.

When his roommates returned, he recruited two of them, Sudhakar Pasupunuri and Charan Padmaraju, to help him. Five months later, they came up with BOSS, a software designed to assist bus operators with their transactions while informing passengers of seat availability at the same time. The young entrepreneurs decided to offer it at no cost, but bus operators were indifferent.

Subsequently, Sama and his co-founders turned to The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), a non-profit organization that supports entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. They were given three mentors who guided them with their plan and pointed out their mistakes. Sama and his team were advised to focus on the customers first and worry about the bus operators later.

During the first seven months of their venture, Sama and his co-founders did not take salaries and put all their revenue back into the company. This was a very different picture from their situation prior to the project, when all three of them were working at multinational companies and earning seven-figure salaries.

Their hard work and patience eventually paid off, however. redBus, which now serves over 10,000 bus routes, has sold more than 7.5 million tickets and raised millions of rupees in venture capital to date.

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