An auto ride with a smile!

An auto ride with a smile!

Ideas galore to unshackle the autorickshaw sector

An auto ride with a smile!

His bargain for a reasonable fare disastrously lost, the Bangalorean hopped onto the autorickshaw cursing his fate. He had no choice, for the driver had to make ends meet. The journey was mundane, but the rickshaw’s image had taken another beating. Yet again!

The Rickshaw Rising Challenge, launched nationwide in November 2013 by non-profit initiative Embarq, chose to change this.

It invited innovative ideas from transport entrepreneurs to make passengers comfortable, drivers dignified and smart, and the environment clean. The result: A huge rush of ideas and projects that could dramatically alter the autorickshaw sector. 

Three projects were eventually chosen for the Challenge awards at the CONNECTKaro conference here. One of them was the Bangalore-based “Three Wheels United,” a social enterprise addressing social, financial and environmental issues in the autorickshaw ecosystem.

Three Wheels United

This initiative, launched by social entrepreneur Ramesh Prabhu, has under its umbrella 5,000 autorickshaw drivers. Here’s how it works, as Prabhu explained to Deccan Herald: The drivers and their families are identified and engaged through the enterprise’s NGO partners.

“We get them open savings bank accounts and monitor their savings practice over a period of three to six months. They are then given loans through our partnership with Canara Bank and Corporation Bank, to purchase four-stroke LPG autorickshaws.”

Each driver gives Rs 200 to the organisation every day , of which Rs 180 is set aside for loan repayment and other expenses. The remaining Rs 20 goes to a recurring deposit in the driver’s name. The drivers and their families are extended life and health insurance.

“The loan is fully repaid in 37 months and the driver becomes the owner of his vehicle branded as ‘Namma Auto.’ During this period, we also train the drivers in traffic rules and other etiquettes. We have released 250 loans so far,” said Prabhu.

The top award of USD 50,000 and six-months business support went to Mukesh Jha and Janardan Prasad from Pune.

The duo had launched “Ubida,” an enterprise that addressed autorickshaw hailing problems on the consumer side, while optimising rides and income for the drivers.


AutoRaja, founded by Aishwarya Raman and Anubhav Agarwal, bagged the second award of USD 25,000 and six-months business support. AutoRaja runs autorickshaws on call, and is designed to create dignified lives for drivers. This is achieved by increasing business and facilitating access to finance, healthcare and education.

The Rickshaw Challenge had also elicited applications from several other innovative projects.

For instance, the Dehradun-based Grinntech Motors had proposed to operate electric autorickshaws powered by a long-life, affordable battery. Smart Commuting Services from Patna was another applicant for the Challenge, specialising in last-mile connectivity through a fleet of auto services.

Innovative changes

The Challenge, as Jyot Chadha from Embarq India explained, intended to trigger innovative changes that could be implemented in 10,000 autorickshaws and more.

“The idea is to make people realise that autos are integral to our roads. They make up only two per cent of the traffic but take care of 20 per cent of all trips.”