Autowale shows how to have happy auto-drivers on the road who do not overcharge

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 Social enterprises thrive on making an impact on people’s lives, to change them for the better. But how does one measure impact? Autowale.in is trying to make a business that also improves the lives of auto-drivers. One way for them to measure impact is by seeing how tangibly the lives of auto-drivers change when they come on board.

This Dial-a-Rickshaw service recently won the Rickshaw Rising Challenge 2014, organized by Shell Foundation, receiving the award of $50,000 and six-month business support.

We got in touch with an auto-driver on board Autowale.in to know how Autowale is making an impact.

Karthik is an auto-driver from Pune who has been with Autowale for over two years now. He has his parents, wife and children to support with his daily earnings. He speaks Marathi and Hindi. Talking to us in Hindi, he reveals how his life has changed since his association with Autowale.

“I came to know about Autowale two years ago. I was at a gas station and I saw their poster.  The market was low. Saving money was difficult so I joined Autowale. I feel since the time I have been with Autowale, I have been happy. I was unable to make ends meet, now I get good amount of work. I used to earn about Rs 10,000 a month and now I can make up to Rs 30,000-35,000 a month. Sometimes it even goes up to Rs 40,000. Earlier, my children studied in a government school but now they study in an English medium (public) school. I used to drive a rented auto, but now I own two autos.”

Janardan Prasad and Mukesh Jha

Janardan Prasad and Mukesh Jha with an auto driver

This tangible change in the quality in Karthik’s life and other drivers on board Autowale is what keeps the two founders Janardan Prasad and Mukesh Jha going. There are five million underutilized auto-rickshaws in India, and the two leveraged the excess capacity of existing transport infrastructure and started Autowale.

There is generally a negative emotion associated with auto-drivers in the public’s mind. This negativity did not bog the two founders down but instead motivated them to change the situation into a positive one. Before they started, they did a survey in Pune and found that only 1% of commuters were happy with their auto-rickshaw experience. They asked customers about their expectations, and figured that it could be delivered.

Janardan says, “At present, our ratings are better than most of the radio-cab companies in Pune. Most of the commuters think that all auto-drivers are goons, very few realize that they are normal human beings like us. They want to earn a living for their family members and are willing to work hard and live a respectable life, given the right eco-system.”

While talking to auto-drivers, they realized that most of them are under debts and have poor educational and financial background. They tried to understand why most of them overcharge commuters – a constant grievance with the public. Janardan and Mukesh found that most auto drivers overcharge because they are not sure if they will have enough customers in a day. Janardan says, “The moment they are assured that they will have enough customers and in turn a steady earning, they stop overcharging.”

He further explains, “All the businesses driven by non-uniform demand-supply gap have price variations and/or revenue visibility problems. Can you imagine airlines or hotels charging customers the same money irrespective of what day, season or festival it is? No. But auto-rickshaw drivers can’t do this (officially) because of rules. There are two ways of solving this issue – introduce a bidding system or surge pricing like airline/ hotel industry or increase the auto-driver’s revenue visibility for him by connecting him to current and future demand through a platform like Autowale.”

Through Autowale, drivers get access to better customers, steady demand, higher revenues and a work-life balance. Autowale drivers work in pre-defined shifts depending on demand pattern (time and location) and driver’s personal constraints. Autowale helps the drivers to maximize their earnings while on the road. Their drivers get better time by having less empty running time and higher incomes. Depending on the financial needs, drivers earn anywhere between Rs 15,000-30,000 per month without compromising on their sleep cycle and family time.

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