Shoot potholes in Mumbai at sight

A mobile app, Pothole Watch Mobile App, aims to fix the city's potholes by asking users to click its pictures on their smartphones, which will then be sent to road authorities

It didn’t take Rupesh Mandal long to transform into a true blue Mumbaikar. Only seven years, to be precise. “I love the city,” says Mandal, who hails from Jharkhand. “I love the freedom that the city gives you and the opportunity to unleash your potential. I even rejected a job offer from another city,” he adds. And his latest campaign, Pothole Watch Mobile App, which is currently up on crowdfunding website Wishberry, is his and the six-membered team’s way of repaying the city they so adore.

A picture from Fill in the Potholes, app wireframe and Rupesh Mandal, who initiated the campaign
(Top to bottom) A picture from Fill in the Potholes, app wireframe and Rupesh Mandal, who initiated the campaign

Once successfully crowdfunded, the app will launch in April 2015. It will encourage users to click pictures of potholes and send it back to the team so that they can, in turn, circulate the picture to non-government organisations (NGOs) that work on road safety and even the road authorities themselves, to urge them to fix the potholes.


Filling in potholes
The app is an offshoot of Mandal’s older project titled Fill in the Potholes, which was a series of photo stories. In the pictures, old toys are arranged around a pothole to narrate a story. So, while miniature versions of Superman and Wonder woman dip their legs leisurely in the water of the pothole in one picture, in another, a helicopter, decked in the colours of the Indian flag, hovers around a pothole to rescue what appears to be a teddy bear, from drowning. The pictures are amusing yet thought provoking.


The project was a work in progress for nearly two years — he first thought of the project in 2012, went about clicking five to six pictures in 2013 and finally launched the website in July 2014, after having a team of volunteers in place. “For the pictures, I asked my friends to contribute old toys. Now, we have all these toys in a box and plan to contribute them to a NGO or an orphanage,’ adds Mandal.

How it works
It was the creative consultant’s intense desire to graduate from a ‘cribber’ to a ‘doer’ that prompted him to do something more concrete. “We wanted to be a part of the solution, not the problem. So we decided to bring in an app that will act as a bridge between citizens and authorities,” says the 32-year-old, who is also founder and creative director of the app.

So how does it work? Users of the app will have to click a picture of the pothole using their smartphone which, using the Global Positioning System (GPS), will automatically tag the latitude and longitude of the pothole’s position. “They will then have to send the picture to us, which will get saved in our database. We will send the data to NGOs that work on road safety, so that they can follow up the issue at ground level, road authorities and even our media partners,” elaborates Mandal, adding that they are currently in the process of looking for NGOs (“Our expertise is only communication,” he says) and brands to partner with them. “Users should also notify us when a pothole has been filled if they happen to pass the area. They can collect points and those who are most active on the app will be crowned Mumbaikar of the month. Alternatively, their points can be redeemed via online shopping. But all that is still in the planning phase,” he stresses.

The team’s immediate concern is developing the app. “A beta prototype of the app will be tested on a closed focus group before the launch,” says Mandal. The campaign has so far collected Rs 1,12,600 and has a few more days to reach the target amount of Rs 1.2 lakhs before it expires on December 12. And what if the team fails to reach their target? “We will revert to Plan A,” chuckles Mandal. “We will put in our own money and run the app. We will do anything for Mumbai.”

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