Chris Sheldrick, CEO & Co-founder, what3words
What is what3words and how does it work?
The what3words database is stored onboard the vehicle so you do not need a phone connection to look this up remotely. You just need the GPS signal for your location. A what3words address provides a simple way to communicate very precise locations. what3words has mapped the globe into a grid of 3m x 3m square and assigned each square a unique combination of three random words, known as a what3words address. Every front door, stadium entrance, beach viewpoint, and spot-on unmarked roads and tracks around the world has its own three-word address. For example, Gateway of India can be found at ///holiday.surprises.design.
what3words is now available on JLR cars, Tata Motors, Mahindra, and also TVS Motor Company two-wheelers. Where did the what3words story in India begin and how has it evolved?
Our story in India begins in 2019, and since then, adoption of our system has continued to grow at pace.
Leading automakers Mahindra, TVS Motor, Triumph Motorcycles, Tata Motors, Jaguar, Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz have integrated our technology so their drivers can navigate to precise destinations with ease. Logistics companies such as Shipyaari, Vamaship, Sequel Logistics are also using what3words so goods are delivered to the correct place every time.
Medulance, and the Maharashtra Government’s emergency medical ambulance services “MEMS Dial 108”, also use what3words to enable faster incident response times for patients in medical emergencies.
And every Pizza Hut store across India has listed its what3words address so people can get their pizzas while they’re still fresh and hot!
People all over India are using our free app to meet up with friends, find hidden gems, or to meet at busy events. In fact, we’ve seen a 183% increase in users in India over the last year.
India has the second largest population of Internet users in the world. Has penetrating this market been more of a challenge or otherwise?
Changing human behaviour and challenging the status quo in any market, and any category is a challenge. But the beauty of what3words is that when people who struggle with addresses, and those who are optimistic about new technology see our solution, they start using it straight away. This is especially true for India – as what3words is available in over 50 languages, including 12 South Asian languages: Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Kannada, Nepali, Urdu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Punjabi, and Odia.
India is a key market for us – vast, fast moving, receptive to new technologies, and hampered by poor addressing. It’s a country that is perfect for our solution. Our mission is incredibly unique to our business – to change the way people around the world communicate location. We want people to see and recognise a what3words address on a business card, e-commerce check-out, a contact page, we want them to type it into search bars, post on social media or say to a voice assistant.
To become an indispensable part of everyday life is a huge opportunity – and the adoption of our technology in India to date shows that there is massive potential in this market.
Being the fourth largest car market, is India a focus market for what3words, and what is the approach towards expanding business here?
The automotive industry is an incredibly exciting space for us, and our technology has been built into in-car navigation systems for optimised voice input by some of the world’s leading automakers including Subaru, Lotus, Mitsubishi, and Lamborghini.
The reason being is that most people can recall at least one frustrating experience where they have tried to input a street address into a car’s navigation system. They are often clunky and time-consuming to input, especially by voice, and even once you have entered a building number, address and postcode, you can still be left driving around trying to work out exactly where various entrances or car parks are.
Street addresses can also cause havoc for navigation systems, especially when entered by voice. They are typically inaccurate, with zip codes and street addresses covering large areas, making it difficult for drivers trying to navigate to precise locations such as specific building entrances, new buildings without addresses and secluded residences.
what3words offers a simple and effective solution to these issues, and the benefits our technology could bring to automotive partners was immediately clear. Our system allows you to simply say or type just three words – a what3words address – to specify a precise destination.
India is home to some of the world’s most renowned automotive brands. And alongside our existing Indian auto partners, our end goal is for every car, not only in India, but in the world, to have what3words integrated into their navigation systems so any driver can get to any destination using just three words.
The partnership with Tata Motors was announced back in 2019. Since then, it is now that partnerships like JLR and Mahindra have unfolded. Like most industries, how much was what3words affected by the pandemic, and are the company’s operations and revenues back to pre-COVID levels?
As the world started adjusting to a new way of living, global lockdowns didn’t stunt the growth of the business. We saw huge growth in the delivery sector, as people turned to what3words for deliveries. In fact, from April – August 2020, global usage increased by 430%. At the same time, the numbers of our revenue-generating corporate clients ballooned. For example, use of what3words by UK retailers increased by 1,000 per cent between March and November 2020 as online shopping soared.
In India and around the world, logistics and e-commerce became a key focus for us, and still is. Companies such as Imagine Online, Nirmalaya, TWF Flours, Evocus H2O & Dorje Teas have adopted our technology so their users can input what3words addresses into their checkouts for hassle-free deliveries. Logistics companies Shipyaari, Vamaship, Sequel Logistics are using what3words so goods are delivered precisely and efficiently.
Future partnerships and alliances in India
There are lots of exciting things happening in India at the moment, our TV advert is up and running, and we have some very exciting partnerships in the pipeline. We’re continuing to speak to the most forward thinking businesses so that what3words becomes an integral part of their platforms and systems.
Ultimately, we’re on a mission to help everyone talk about everywhere. The plan is to maintain momentum and continue growing, not only in India, but all over the world.
How does what3words improve user experience, and can it be more efficient than an Internet-connected service?
what3words is designed to solve the problems caused by poor addressing, and to date is being used by millions of people and thousands of businesses in a multitude of different ways. From emergency services to automakers, logistics providers, on-demand food delivery services and on e-commerce check-out pages. We’re streamlining processes for people all over the world, whether it’s to navigate to a hidden gem without a street address or postcode, or to meet a friend in a busy park, or to direct the emergency services directly to the scene of an incident.
And when it comes to internet connectivity, our technology works completely offline, making it ideal for use in areas with weak or poor data connection. India is home to bustling megacities and vast areas of unaddressed land, so this functionality can be invaluable in those instances where signal often fails.
Also, when it comes to navigation, our technology provides an additional layer of accuracy. Popular mapping apps are a great tool for navigation. Unfortunately when you type an address into the search bar it often struggles to locate it, or the pin drops in the wrong place. what3words solves that by providing a very accurate address – precise to a 3m x 3m square. It’s a much easier way to communicate an exact location and can be typed, spoken or written down easily.
If you are given a what3words location, you can open it in the what3words app, then tap ‘Navigate’ and select your normal navigation app to open the exact 3m x 3m of where you want to go, and get directions to that spot.