October 27, 2012


"Behavior Architects" Tackle India's Social Problems (David Shaftel, October 25, 2012, Business Week)

The bureaucrats running Mumbai's suburban rail network had a problem: Commuters and people living and working close to train stations were taking shortcuts across the tracks. This reckless behavior was causing 6,000 deaths in the metropolitan area every year. The transit authorities asked FinalMile, a local marketing consultant, to find a solution. FinalMile had experience in applying behavioral economics to sell consumer goods; the city hoped it could use similar techniques to save lives. FinalMile would do the work for free.

The four founders of FinalMile, who among them have degrees in business administration, engineering, and economics, have worked with Hindustan Unilever (HUVR), Philips Electronics (PHG), Merck (MRK), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), and others. Co-founder Ram Prasad figured the best behavioral strategy was to make track trespassers less complacent by going beyond the existing warning signs to instill a deep sense of danger. So at Wadala station in central Mumbai, FinalMile hung graphic photos of a train about to run down a screaming man. FinalMile researchers also realized that approaching trains typically began to honk their horn too far away. In densely populated Mumbai, the honking blended in with the aural landscape. So Prasad persuaded the train engineers to blow their horns closer to the station in sharp bursts, making the warning stand out from the cacophony. FinalMile and M. C. Chauhan, chief electrical traction engineer with the Northern Railways, say that deaths at Wadala declined 75 percent, from 40 in 2009 to 10 in 2010.
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Posted by at October 27, 2012 10:03 AM

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