Bangalore’s Auto-Rickshaw Drivers – Time to Reform? – 4

(In the concluding part to the 4 part series “Bangalore’s Auto-Rickshaw Drivers – Time to Reform?” (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), we discuss the problems in setting up a system by which we incorporate the auto-wallahs into firms, so that we could allow them to fix their own prices and at the same time, create competition to check the price levels.)

Of course, there would be tremendous resistance. They would immediately realise they would be losing an enormous amount of money in this venture. Entire power equations would change. It always happens when you try removing grey markets. It happened with prohibition in the US, and it is one of the main reasons why you cannot bring addictive substances into the mainstream market. There is too much money to lose the current stakeholders in the change.

This is also more difficult to implement because some of the people who own autos, are or used to be part of the government or police. But it could be done.

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I don’t know how to do this efficiently, but the trick I guess is to use PR to your advantage. Paint the government as the saviour of the public, paint the auto-wallahs as the oppressed people in Bangalore. It can be done. That would force them to agree to the stand proposed, and would make it difficult to do otherwise; they would be afraid of losing something that image in the minds of the public.

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The whole thing might not work at all, but my intention is to create a debate on this topic, which would probably lead to a better solution. As I said, since the situation is very similar in other metros, a simple solution once thought of, could be implemented in other cities, removing a major pain-point from citizen’s lives.

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In this regard, I received a comment from Rakesh Agarwal, of Nyayabhoomi, who are doing an ambitious job with autos in Delhi. They have started an “Autorickshaw Star Club”, in which they are enrolling auto-rickshaw drivers who are going to much different from the run-of-the-mill chaps on the road. They are going to earn advertising revenue from advertisments on their vehicles. In return for the advertising revenue, they have to be polite to the customers :). They would also have an elaborate system of promotion, which is an added incentive for them. They estimate about 25,000 drivers to join this club by 2008.

The website also has more accurate costing for auto-rickshaw drivers than I have put up in my blog post. So interested people can update themselves there. 🙂 By the way, I never intended to anywhere close to accurate in this post. I just wanted to bring out the flaws, that would help explain the fares.

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2 responses to “Bangalore’s Auto-Rickshaw Drivers – Time to Reform? – 4

  1. point 1 – excellent analysis of the P&L. But can’t agree with parallel to kiranas. A kirana has an address and you can choose not to go to one but to another down the road 5 mins further down. You might never meet the same auto again.

    Making companies is a good idea. In Dubai for example there are around 5 companies and each charge the same rate. I call the first number that comes to my mind.

    Private taxi fares in Blore if you analyze a little further are pegged to auto charges. if one rises the other will. and cartels will definitely form in this solution,

  2. I agree in the sense, that auto-wallahs have no incentive at all to be polite to a customer, because you might never ever meet him/her (let’s not be sexist here 😉 ) again.

    But I think that is the whole point of creating companies. You have big monoliths you can inflict pain on if you don’t like the experience with the hypothetical company’s auto.

    And not only us customers, but even the MRTPC or an equivalent regulatory authority can easily crackdown on them. Which is pretty useful since all of us would know how difficult it is for a customer to bring up the topic of calling the “number” while discussing the fares with an auto-wallah.

    But all this apart, I like the way http://www.nyayabhoomi.org is handling the situation in Delhi.. I have to yet see some of the autos under this scheme, but if they manage to achieve some critical mass, it should work out.

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