We’ve been working at a better autorickshaw system for commuters across Indian cities for well over two years now. Trying to change something that has been “the norm” for so many years is not an easy task especially in the autorickshaw travel system that has been unorganized largely for a long time. Of course, there are the unions and common colours or uniforms that make it seem like everything operates under a single systematic organised way but that’s far from the reality.
- Rickshaw owners think that drivers make a lot of money and life must be great for them.
- Rickshaw drivers think owners and commuters make a lot of money and life must be great for them.
- Commuters like you and I think rickshaw drivers make a lot of money and life must be great for them.
None of us are entirely right in thinking one party benefits the most and since everything is so unorganized, life is not great for the owners, the drivers and definitely not the commuters who don’t get a fair and efficient autorickshaw system like they should. Along the way we have made a number of changes in our business model, the way we operate and how we do things and learned tremendously along the way.
Creating a better autorickshaw system doesn’t just mean creating a system that is convenient for the commuter (although that’s a big part of it). Creating a better rickshaw system means improving a number of flaws and issues within the broken way of doing things to create a win-win situation for both the drivers and the consumers. It needs to be “all-inclusive” improvement that is not just one sided.
Before we started Autowale.in, we carried out a lot of research which involved speaking to a many citizens around Pune identifying their biggest issues with autorickshaw drivers and the system itself. We all know these issues well and have faced them ourselves in daily life whether it’s being overcharged, dealing with fast meters, being taken on longer routes, being refused on short trips and long ones among many other things.
Then, we also carried out some more research to see what were the issues rickshaw drivers faced from day to day and we discovered a lot of them. Not being able to find enough trips to make ends meet, having to travel return journeys empty adding to costs, dealing with loan repayments on their vehicles or paying rent to the owners for using their rickshaws and more.
Here is an extract from a very recent article published in The Deccan Chronicle which gives you a great picture of what drivers go through:
D. Sathya, wife of a city auto driver, has decided to move her sons from an English medium school to a government school.
“My husband drives a hired auto rickshaw for which he has to pay a daily rental of `200. Our life has become miserable after the mushrooming of Ape autos that are being operated illegally as share autos,” she said sorrowfully.
After paying the daily rental amount, the nominal amount that my husband gives me is not enough to meet the expenses of a five-member family, she rues and adds, “I have to manage the expenses of the family with the few hundred rupees in addition to paying Rs 3,000 as rent for our home.”
“How can I give my children quality education with this nominal amount?” she asks.
Mrs Sathya’s situation is much the same as what we’ve seen in Pune where unpredictability of how much a driver will be able to cover in fares as well as rising costs make life tough. There’s no doubt the current system is broken and is partly to blame for many drivers turning to overcharging, refusing trips and other issues. That’s unfair on the customers who also end up over paying through their hard earned savings.
A better system needs to be one that is better for the consumer as well as the drivers and all parties involved. We have a lot of tools to help us improve things using technology, more efficient running of rickshaws, better financial models to provide stability to drivers earnings, less wastage, better communication and more. With these, we intend to keep working at improving what we do, finding better solutions and move towards a system where all parties are happier. Traveling from place to place within your cities should be simple and efficient…not a daily struggle!