TPL Trakker CEO Sarwar Ali Khan
TPL Trakker CEO Sarwar Ali Khan

All of us have had our fair share of misfortune (or rage) with the Google Maps.

From making you go around in circles, even when the path is straight, to almost never being able to pinpoint the exact location, it’s been a troubled companion to whom we keep returning due to a lack of choices.

But what if there was a better option? At least that’s the promise of TPL Maps.

TPL Maps is a Pakistani navigation app based out of Karachi that lets you wander around without getting lost. Open the mobile application, look for any particular place, set directions, see the estimated arrival time and get going. Or you can share location, record a route and do pretty much most of the stuff like any other mapping portal.

They have collected data of over five million addresses, with around 3m commercial and 2m residential. Plus approximately 600,000km of road networks. All in all, this encompasses most of the tier-1 and 2 cities.

“We have been in the tracking business for two decades and at the time we started, there was no Google Maps to help us offer location-based services to our clients. So we set up our own geographic information system team to collect geo-coded location data related to commercial and residential points of interest. And then after years, the company started looking for avenues to monetise that data and that is how TPL Maps came about,” tells Sarwar Ali Khan, Chief Executive Officer of Trakker, which in turn is part of the publicly-listed TPL Corporation.

It works on SaaS models, offering a certain threshold of usage for free. Anything exceeding that requires a paid subscription which has a bucket pricing structure depending on the usage. Plus, they have custom specialised digital maps and analysis offering in case a client requires that.

Most of you are probably wondering why there is even a need for TPL Maps when one of the biggest tech giants already has an offering in the market. How does a local player hope to navigate its way through in such an environment?

“First of all, our pricing is much more competitive than Google. Then the fact that we have physical presence here allows us to have better relationships with the customers,” says Khan.

“Even in terms of accuracy, we fare better on some measures since our data is verified by surveyors unlike Google, which has crowdsourced information,” continues Ali Samir Oosman, head of TPL eVentures, adding that their solution is licensed by the Survey of Pakistan, the national navigation organisation.

Moreover, the company has partnered with Here Maps - one of the biggest location platforms based out of Europe - to offer navigation solutions beyond Pakistan. “The plan is to also expand abroad, including countries like the UAE, where we already have an existing clientele through Trakker Middle East in Dubai,” says Khan.

We have touched upon why TPL Maps may be more suitable locally but what kind of customers and industries are they eyeing? “We already have a few such as Lahore-based EatMubarak and myride, and Telenor and are looking for more players in the ride-hailing, telecom sectors or proptech portals which need mapping services. Then obviously there is the logistics space, where we again have existing relationships due to Trakker and have been pitching the solution to them. In addition we have a very healthy pipeline of potential clients currently testing our data APIs,” shares Khan.

From the onset, the offering might look niche with very few players (in the mentioned sectors) who might become paying customers. But given the pricing structure, it’s more about the usage of any given client than about the number of subscribers.

“Even two to three big names from ride-hailing or delivery would be enough to help us achieve targets as our growth depends on their volume,” the CEO says, adding that the maps division is already cash positive.

He is also betting on the overall demand for navigation systems to increase both because of more players entering and the existing ones growing further thanks to the behavioral shift caused by Covid-19 which is more conducive to deliveries.

The writer is member of staff: m.mutaherkhan@gmail.com

Twitter: @MutaherKhan

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2020