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Azuga Founder Rani Brings Gamification to Fleet Management

September 14, 2015  - By
Azuga’s Fleet Driver Rewards App Wins CTIA E-Tech Award


Ananth Rani founded Azuga in 2013.

Ananth Rani founded Azuga in 2013.

When Ananth Rani began work in 2012 on the Fleet Driver Rewards app that has made connected vehicle provider Azuga a CTIA up-and-comer, he wasn’t sure he was making the right decision.

“Frankly, it was a bit of an experience to see if there was still room in the market for another vendor,” he said recently as he took time to sit-down at a coffee shop in Las Vegas’ Sands Expo Center amid CTIA Super Mobility 2015. “I thought, ‘What the hell am I getting myself into?’”

The gamble paid off for the Azuga and its dedicated co-founder. Azuga’s app took home second place in the Mobile Cloud division at the CTIA E-Tech Awards Thursday. The honors go to what CTIA describes as “the most innovative emerging mobile services, solutions and technology from areas such as the cloud, network equipment, M2M and the Internet of Things.”

What makes Azuga’s app innovative says Rani, is that it appeals to a unique user: The fleet driver.

Not just managers. Not just owners. The drivers themselves.

“Azuga is all about social telematics,” he says. “It comes from the heart. I tell fleet managers, ‘Do you want to be remembered as a gotcha guy or an attaboy?’”

A Silicon Valley veteran, Rani utilized a principal more likely to be seen in apps marketed to consumers: gamification. Fleet drivers earn points based on things like hard-braking, acceleration, sustained high speeds and driving in adverse weather conditions, among other metrics determined by a Ph.D. in statistics that Azuga has on staff.

“The expectation was that a driver will naturally move toward a safer fleet by competing with the rest of the drivers, and that as the risk goes down the miles per gallon goes up,” Rani said, “and that’s your ROI.”

The reward for winning is no simple badge: Drivers’ profiles are pulled from LinkedIn and their rankings are visible among the “Azuga Awesome Drivers” group on the social network. Rani says Azuga is “not J.D. Power” but aspires to have the same reputation for determining safe drivers.

Azuga Fleet Driver Rewards

Azuga Fleet Driver Rewards can gift a reward as a donation to groups like World of Children.

There’s also cash on the line. The company gives out quarterly prizes to the Top 10 drivers and Top 10 fleet managers of the 50,000 nationwide users, and the 1,000+ corporate customers can then also choose to award their drivers based on their own goals through an electronic gift card program that is tied to 14 national brands, including Amazon, Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Burger King. The driver sees the amount awarded and then has the choice of gift cards. Azuga has also recently added three charities to which the drivers can pass the reward as a donation.

Safety and savings aside, employee retention is an additional

“This is a blue collar world where the employee takes the truck home at night. Feeling engaged is the key to employee retention in a world where they may never see the boss and where they only see their manager for a meeting every few weeks.”

Azuga's OBD-II connector is manufactured by parent company Danlaw Inc.

Azuga’s OBD-II connector is manufactured by parent company Danlaw Inc.

Azuga pairs with hardware manufactured by its parent company, Michigan-based Danlaw Inc. Rani sees the relationship as one that benefits Azuga with the “automotive grade DNA” and calls it “Silicon Valley meets Detroit.”

Azuga Fleet costs 69 cents per day per vehicle, and customers are companies of varying sizes with Aaron’s, the rental furniture and home appliances chain, using it for 3,000 trucks and 6,000 drivers on the large end and single-driver landscape companies at the small end.

Growth plans for the app including functions to help drivers find parking, locate a parked truck and easily message clients that they are on their way. The app is also being reviewed by state governments as a tool to determine whose cars need to be emissions-tested and to track hours required for state graduated driver licensing.

It’s currently being tested by the Oregon Department of Transportation as a way to assign a road usage charge that funds highway repairs. The topic is politically divisive, with opponents saying replacing the gas tax with a per-mile fee is inequitable and subsidizes gas-guzzlers and advocates saying it will lead to safer roads and is an easier, faster alternative to tolls. The din doesn’t concern Rani. He says the intent is the same that inspired the fleet management app.

“It’s all about,” he says, “benefiting drivers.”

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About the Author: Bethany Chambers

Bethany Chambers has been a digital editor for GPS World since 2012. She also serves as digital operations manager for GPS World parent company North Coast Media. Chambers is a multimedia journalist with expertise in the business and healthcare fields who has won awards from the National Press Club and the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership. She has a masters in interactive publishing from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and a bachelors in marketing from Duquesne University.