Published: 17th March 2021
How serial entrepreneur Riki Biswas made the best use of Kolkata's e-rickshaws during the lockdown
There are opportunities everywhere, one just has to look really hard. And looks like entrepreneur Riki Biswas has nailed the art of spotting opportunities. And this is his TEDx-talk worthy story
Riki Biswas' entrepreneurial journey is tailor-made for a TEDx talk, in our opinion. The humble beginnings, the glorious highs and all the speed bumps along the way that the 27-year-old had to encounter make for an invigorating monologue. And indeed that was exactly how it went down as he delivered a session during TEDxNITRourkela, held virtually from March 13 to 14.
And for all those who missed it, we spoke to the Kolkata-based serial entrepreneur about his journey so far.
Under Solarstair, they installed a seven and a half-megawatt solar plant at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in collaboration with Sterling and Wilson
While many innovators saw the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown as a threat to their ideas, Riki used his ability to think on his feet and engaged existing electric rickshaw owners to ferry medicines, groceries and other important necessities to sustain themselves as people had locked themselves up inside their homes. "Today, it's the pandemic. Tomorrow it'll be something else. The point we were trying to make was why must we depend on only one source of income. If you can't transport people, transport something else. Also, everyone was concerned about COVID patients but other emergencies like labour pains and dialysis patients were also suffering. We made it a point to cater to them," he asserts.
Riki | (Pic: Pointo)
In this way, about 200 e-rickshaws of Kolkata were completely dependent on Pointo, the app and call-based e-rickshaw booking facility. They hope to acquire another 5,000 e-rickshaws to offer environmentally-conscious mobility in bigger numbers. Throughout the lockdown, his policy was to go zero, not negative when it comes to business. "Sometimes it's not about profits, it's just about sustaining oneself and breaking even," he points out.
They have installed solar panels on rooftops of about 92 government schools
Since Riki grew up in a family constrained by finances, his mind was already at work to find simple solutions to complex problems. Having completed a BTech in Chemical Engineering from IIT Guwahati in 2016, it only broadened his worldview. "Some start-ups start big in the first stage itself and consider themselves to be unicorns from day one. My suggestion would always be to start small. Don't invest everything, one needs to have financial back-up, no matter how small," he suggests.
The trip | (Pic: Pointo)
Riki is also a big believer in doing on-ground work. It was he who distributed pamphlets and got the first 100 e-rickshaws onto his platform. The first few bookings were also directly handled by him. "When we work on-ground, we discover flaws. Hence, it is very important to be aware of ground reality," he says. Apart from this, he also emphasises on creating an impact with the start-up and it shouldn't be paid attention to just because of marketing purposes.
Today, Pointo has had about 4,600 bookings and he has other projects going for him, like Solarstair, which promotes the use of renewable energy and Rodo, a dockless public e-bike sharing service. So it will do us good if we are able to take a leaf from his book.
TED talks we recommend for you:
- Do schools kill creativity? by educationalist Sir Ken Robinson
- Your body language may shape who you are by social psychologist Amy Cuddy
- Inside the mind of a master procrastinator by writer Tim Urban
- The power of vulnerability by professor Brené Brown
For more on them, check out pointo.in