COLOMBO (AFP) – Hundreds of rickshaw drivers blocked streets in Sri Lanka’s capital on Tuesday to protest against the entry of India’s Tata Nano, billed as the world’s cheapest car, into the island’s taxi market.
The Federation of Self-Employees (FOSE) said its members, who mostly drive smoke-belching tri-shaws, would lose business if a taxi service using Nano cars launched earlier this month was allowed to expand.
The Nano service is pitched at a lower price than air-conditioned cabs and as a better alternative to the ubiquitous but unstable three-wheel taxis which are involved in a high number of road fatalities.
“We will lose our livelihood if Nano taxis are allowed to flood the market,” a spokesman for FOSE told reporters as hundreds of rickshaws paraded through crowded parts of the capital.
The taxi company using Nano cars, Nano Cab, said it planned to increase its current fleet of 45 cars to 200 within six months.
In Sri Lanka the Nano costs 925,000 rupees ($8,500), compared to about $3,000 for a basic model in India, making it nearly two and a half times more expensive than an Indian-made Bajaj three-wheeler.
Sri Lanka became the car’s first foreign market late last month.