In India’s metropolises – which every day teeter on the brink of a complete collapse of their transportation networks – it’s better not to count on the rapid arrival of an ambulance. There are no central emergency numbers, paramedics are often poorly trained, and the vehicles have only the most rudimentary of equipment. On average, patients have to wait over 45 minutes for transportation, and around 30% of the sick or injured people die on their way to the nearest hospital. Not so in Hyderabad. Start- up Stanplus has built up a fleet of 180 modern ambulances in this city of 7 million inhabitants. These are staffed by highly qualified personnel and can reach their patients in less than 15 minutes. Prabhdeep Singh, one of the three founders of the young company, explains the Stanplus business model: “We have built an online platform with which patients and health facilities can access a pool of private ambulances so that those in need of help can be reached by GPS, without error, in the shortest possible time.” But Stanplus is much more than just an Uber for patient transport. “All our partners must meet high quality standards, with well-trained paramedics and impeccably equipped vehicles. Our goal is saving lives!”
It is this societally sustainable aspect that qualified Stanplus for participation in the program of the MAN Impact Accelerator. In 2017, MAN – a subsidiary of Volkswagen Truck & Bus AG (soon to be called TRATON AG) – first started this initiative for supporting start-ups that have a social impact. Joachim Drees, Member of the Management of Volkswagen Truck & Bus AG and CEO of MAN Truck & Bus AG, considers the program a complete success: “At MAN, we take our social responsibility seriously. That’s why we want to pass on, in a goal-oriented manner, our expertise in the area of transport and logistics. By creating the MAN Impact Accelerator, we can support selected start-ups as they solve societal problems.” In addition to Stanplus, six more innovative, young companies – from the MAN core markets Europe, India and South Africa– presented compelling cases with their business models, and thus were able to make use of the mentors’ support.
From January to June 2018, the founders were trained in the areas of leadership, production logistics, quality management, supply chain management, finance and human resources. A central role was played by 11 MAN employees, who accompanied the founders throughout the entire program to locations in Munich, Paris, Mumbai, Cape Town and San Francisco. What’s more, the start-ups were also able to exchange ideas with representatives from Google, Uber, Amazon, Maersk or Airbnb. Stanplus founder Prabhdeep Singh looks back enthusiastically on the MAN Impact Accelerator: “The expertise of MAN mentors was extremely valuable to us. We were able to significantly optimize our processes and thus lay an additional foundation for our expansion."
The implementation of the MAN Impact Accelerator was supported by Yunus Social Business, a nonprofit venture fund founded by the Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus. Fabian Heidinger, Head of Digital Transformation at MAN Truck & Bus, was tasked with the conception and organization of the six-month mentoring program. “One of the challenges was to identify and recruit exactly those experts in the larger MAN universe who could precisely meet the needs of the start-ups. And the willingness to do this volunteer work was extraordinarily high,” says Heidinger. In addition, the MAN Impact Accelerator has become a win-win situation for both sides: The participating start-ups could benefit from the expertise and networks of MAN and Yunus Social Business, while the MAN mentors in particular could learn from the start-ups’ way of working. “This benefits us as a company,” says Heidinger, “because the agile working methods of the program participants radiate into our organization and help us to think in a new and more open way.” MAN employee Elena Erler, mentor for HR topics, is also convinced of this: “Passing on your own knowledge and, in doing so, creating sustainable added value – that’s immensely motivating. Moving outside predetermined processes and being confronted with situations that are taken for granted within MAN allows you to rethink and also to optimize your own way of working.”
At the end of the program, all participants were invited to an awards ceremony at the MAN Truck Forum in Munich. The results were impressive: After six months, the revenues of the participating start-ups have more than doubled. In addition, the companies employ, on average, 57% more people and have around 120% more customers. “Many Indian women can now safely get to work thanks to the bus- sharing platform Commut. Hundreds of Indian farmers now sell and deliver their milk directly to the end consumer thanks to the supplier Country Delight. Thousands of patients can now receive much better medical treatment thanks to networked ambulances from Stanplus,” says Daniel Nowack, Yunus program manager, summing up. A result that reinforces Joachim Drees in his decision: “We are continuing the program,” says Drees. The groundbreaking project will start its second round in fall 2018.