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Free Magazine Boosts Income for Rickshaw Drivers

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

In the bustling, congested cities of Asia, rickshaws and auto-rickshaws are common forms of transport. Smaller, cheaper and more nimble than cars, they play a key role in the transit infrastructure, helping to get people to work and to get around.

According to a report by the World Resources Institute (wri.org) and EMBARQ – a global network of experts on sustainable transport solutions – India’s auto rickshaws are “an increasingly important part of urban transport in cities.”

The report estimates the number of auto rickshaws at between 15,000 and 30,000 in medium-sized cities and over 50,000 in large cities. The report found they make up between 10 and 20 per cent of daily motorized road transport trips for people in Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune and Rajkot.

And it’s not just the economic role played in transporting people: auto rickshaws are made in India and their production there doubled between 2003 and 2010, making them a source of manufacturing jobs too.

As India’s cities continue to grow – estimates forecast urban populations surging from 340 million in 2008 to 590 million by 2030 – auto rickshaws could have a bright future as they remain an affordable and safe transport solution.

The monthly magazine Meter Down (http://meterdown.co.in/) – launched in 2010 – is targeting the large captive audience of Mumbai’s rickshaw passengers with news and advertising. It is modelled on the familiar free newspapers found in cities around the world. Usually, these newspapers are distributed at subway and metro stations or in metal boxes at bus stops. Meter Down takes a different twist on this concept, distributing the publication directly to rickshaw passengers.

Mumbai is a crowded and very busy Indian city with an estimated 14 million people. Many residents spend a lot of time commuting – and a lot of time stuck in traffic jams. They need something to occupy them and to keep them informed about the news. This also presents a significant opportunity for businesses to communicate messages and advertising products and services.

Founded by three university graduates, Meter Down is trying to reach young professionals with a bit of money who can afford to ride to work in auto rickshaws.

It is distributed through 7,000 auto rickshaws in Mumbai, according to The Guardian newspaper, and is also being distributed in Pune and Ahmedabad.

The clever bit is the incentive for the drivers to carry the magazine: they receive 35 to 40 per cent of the profit from advertising sales.

This is added to the 400 to 500 rupees they make in a normal shift, according to the Mumbai Autorickshawmen’s Union.

But isn’t it a challenge to read a printed publication while bouncing along the road? The publishers came up with a solution: no story is to be longer than 300 words and the magazine has many large-size photographs to make it visually appealing and easy on the eye. Then there is the issue of passengers leaving with a copy of the magazine, denying the next passenger their read. The solution they came up for this is to tie the magazine to the rickshaw.

One of the biggest problems for any new start-up publication is how to scale up and reach more readers. Meter Down cleverly has the mechanism to scale built into its business model: “The market for this is as big as the total number of auto-rickshaws in each city,” Dedhia told The Guardian. “We have successfully scaled the model and tweak it as per different specific needs. Since auto-rickshaws are present in every part of the country, we can expand the network everywhere.”

Meter Down’s founders estimate that each rickshaw makes 90 to 95 trips every day. They have calculated this leads to a potential readership of 600,000 people. To increase revenue sources, the magazine also sells advertising space on the back and inside of the rickshaws.

For people in wealthier countries, rickshaws may seem like a rough way to get to work, but they are actually, for Indians, the more expensive option. A three-mile ride in Mumbai costs 68 rupees (US $1.27), according to The Guardian, which is 10 times the cost of a second-class train ticket.

For Meter Down, this means targeting the magazine and the ads at a market of readers with money and a willingness to buy products and services. It looks like things could be on the up for Meter Down!

Published: September 2012

Resources

1) Sustainable Urban Transport in India: Role of the Auto-Rickshaw Sector.
Website: http://www.embarq.org/en/sustainable-urban-transport-india-role-auto-rickshaw-sector 

2) A fleet of auto rickshaws for sale from Bajaj. Website: http://www.bajajauto.com/commercial_vehicle.asp

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

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This work is licensed under a
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Rickshaw Drivers Prosper with New Services

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The rickshaw is the world’s oldest form of wheeled transportation and forms a significant part of India’s transport infrastructure. In large cities across Asia, 1 million three-wheeled auto-rickshaws form an important means of daily transportation and a vital source of income for their drivers. There are 8 million cycle rickshaws on the streets of India, the government says. They perform many tasks: as taxis, as couriers, as goods movers. And the Indian government promotes cycle rickshaws as a non-polluting alternative.

But rickshaw drivers in India struggle with a bad image despite being a critical component of the transport infrastructure. They work 12 to 18 hour days, are paid poorly, and are subject to frequent abuse from passengers and other drivers in the crowded and stressful streets.

Many of the men working as rickshaw drivers have left behind families in villages. Because their main home is elsewhere, many just eat, sleep and live next to the roadside.

An innovative company is taking this important service into the 21st century, and in turn boosting income and benefits for the drivers and restoring their dignity. Based in Delhi, Sammaan (www.sammaan.org), meaning dignity, has developed a sophisticated business model that offers a wide range of services to rickshaw passengers – drinks for sale, mobile phone chargers, courier collections, music, magazines/newspapers, first aid and outdoor advertising and marketing – along with professional treatment of the drivers, providing them with a uniform, identity card, bank accounts, profit sharing and insurance. The drivers pay a small maintenance fee of 10 rupees a day (US 20 cents) for renting the rickshaws. It is common in the rickshaw industry in India for drivers to rent their vehicles on a daily basis – 95 percent do so.

Drivers get the full fare from a ride, while they share the profits from the sales of goods with Sammaan (http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=yUuP16fyTjM).

Sammaan’s founder, 27-year-old Irfan Alam, from the Indian state of Bihar, had the inspiration for his business idea when he was thirsty and riding in a rickshaw. He knew the rickshaw driver made very little money after he paid his rent for the rickshaw. And so he thought about how drivers could increase their income. Why couldn’t they sell drinks, or newspapers or mobile phone cards, he thought?

As well, since they travel more than 6 miles a day on average, why not deliver things and host advertisements on the rickshaws?

Sammaan’s idea is to fully modernize the rickshaw business: an important goal considering it makes up 30 percent of urban transport in India. By turning rickshaws into mobile advertising and marketing vehicles, income is substantially increased, while offering services builds loyalty from passengers.

In order to improve the quality of life for drivers, Sammaan also offers free evening classes for the drivers and their children.

Sammaan’s rickshaws are custom designed to allow for ample space to display the paid-for advertisements. This has proved a highly competitive way to do outdoor advertisements: it is 90 percent cheaper than advertising billboards and other campaigns. The fact the rickshaws go everywhere – from urban back streets to rural areas – makes it an effective way to reach all corners of India.

The rickshaws for the passengers are no more expensive than rickshaws with no services. And passengers are even covered by insurance if there is an accident.

Sammaan currently has hundreds of rickshaws running in Noida, Ghaziabad , Patna , Agra , Meerut , Gurgaon and Chandigarh .

The company also is planning to offer phone services in the rickshaws and the ability to pay utility bills while riding inside.

“We are also in advanced talks with Zandu Pharmaceuticals, Coca Cola and Dabur, and are hopeful of getting advertising contracts from them,” Alam told The Economist magazine. Sammaan expects to make Rs 10,000 to 15,000 (US $204 to US $307) a year from a single rickshaw.
Alam is part of a new breed in India: he is not from an established business family, but is nonetheless well educated. Many educated Indians are turning to entrepreneurship instead of becoming a corporate drone in a big company. This is being called a revolution in middle-class aspirations.

India has long-standing entrepreneurial traditions: merchant community the Marwari baniyas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marwaris) are famed for their business acumen. But the new entrepreneurs have different aspirations and inspirations. They look to technology pioneers like Infosys (http://www.infosys.com/) and hire people based on merit and professionalism, not family connections.

The hot areas for this new breed of entrepreneur are technology, entertainment, human resources and education.

Alam’s rickshaws are made out of fiberglass for tourist towns with paved roads, and a rugged version out of iron for places with poor road conditions.

Another initiative to modernize the rickshaw business has come from India’s Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) (http://www.csir.res.in/), which has developed a state-of-the-art, solar powered version of the humble cycle-rickshaw.

The “soleckshaw” is a motorized cycle rickshaw that can be pedalled normally or run on a 36-volt solar battery.

The makeover includes FM radios and power points for charging mobile phones during rides.

The “soleckshaw,” which has a top speed of 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) per hour, has a sturdier frame and foam seats for up to three people.

The fully-charged solar battery will power the rickshaw for 50 to 70 kilometres (30 to 42 miles). Used batteries can be deposited at a centralized solar-powered charging station and replaced for a nominal fee.

Published: January 2009

Resources

  • India’s National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) promotes the spirit of enterprise on the country’s campuses and has a contest to pick the top 30 Indian hot start-ups. Website: http://www.nenonline.org/
  • Indian venture capital firm Helion Ventures invests in start-ups. Website: www.helionvc.com
  • TATA NEN Hottest Startups — India’s first ever people’s choice awards. Hottest Startups will identify, showcase and support the highest-potential young companies in India. Websitehttp://www.hotteststartups.in/http://www.hotteststartups.in/shortlistedStartupsHome.do?        method=fetch&businessFn=shortlistedStartupsHome
  • Tukshop is a website selling auto rickshaws and tuk-tuks. Website: http://www.tukshop.biz/
  • A wide range of auto rickshaws for sale. Website:http://www.auto-rickshaw.com/
  • The Hybrid Tuk Tuk Battle is a competition to come up with less polluting auto rickshaws, clean up the air in Asian cities, and improve the economic conditions for auto rickshaw drivers. Website:http://hybridtuktuk.com/

Citations

As cited in A Sociological Approach to Health Determinants by Toni Schofield (2015).

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Freaky – The 70s Meant Something

By David South

Watch Magazine (Toronto, Canada), June 8, 1994

It was the decade of the happy face, bell-bottoms, avocado fridges, disco and the Bay City Rollers; in short, the 70s was a pimple on the ass of history, better evaporated in a pot haze on a waterbed. Not so says 70s-obsessed author Pagan Kennedy, who believes the much-maligned decade is the victim of a bum rap perpetuated by the idolization of the 60s.

Kennedy says the 70s saw all the radical ideas and culture of the 60s go mainstream and mutate in a way the hippies couldn’t imagine.

Social relations and culture were profoundly reshaped during this decade as the non-traditional family took form, women flooded the workplace and unions became rich monoliths.

The social turmoil spawned blue collar red-necks with Confederate flags customizing fuck trucks – vans complete with waterbed, eight-track stereo, bong and sleazy airbrushed exteriors of naked women –  to cruise the nation’s highways enjoying the liberal sexual values while keeping conservative political views. Sexual liberation for these clowns consisted of bumper stickers saying “Ass, gas or grass – nobody rides for free!”. Kennedy remembers it all too well.

“This was the midst of the energy crisis, so big cars that wasted a lot of gas were really cool,” she says. “I guess it came out of the whole drug culture, sex culture thing. It was like a basement kids have, only it was on wheels – a party on wheels. It’s not just the mattress for the fuck truck, you’re supposed to be doing your bong hits in there – so the police can’t see you.”

Sex holidays

“Our lives are much more constrained than they were in the 70s,” continues Kennedy. “I think the 70s must seem like an exotic time to grow up in. One of my favourite parts in Douglas Coupland’s Generation X is when the characters want to take a sex holiday to 1974.

“There was a lot of obsession in the early 70s with swingers and wife-swapping. It was the one time when suddenly the sexual revolution was kicking in, not just for white, privileged college kids, but for everybody – for the working class. There were discos and orgy clubs. There was Plato’s Retreat in New York City where you would go in and there was an orgy in full progress.”

In music, the 70s rocketed between extremes. There was nauseating soft rock, concept albums and “progressive” rock. There was the outrageous glam, with artists like Slade and Gary Glitter jacked up on elevator shoes in sequin one-piece flare suits. There was disco and punk. But the sickest phenomena says Kennedy was corporate rock.

David Cassidy

“In the 60s, people were just learning how to package rock and make it a big corporate thing. By the 70s they had learned a lot. The Partridge Family was a group that was entirely fabricated. David Cassidy had a bigger fan club than Elvis. This was a guy who didn’t become a rock star until he went on TV. In the 60s, FM was alternative radio – you could play anything. Corporate guys got their hooks into FM by the 70s. They were formatting. It was no longer what the DJ wanted to hear. You were getting playlists. The money came from big rock concerts, so there was a desire to push these mega-groups and superstars.”

Another truly 70s phenomena was TV as social conscience. Before the 70s, TV variety shows focused on pure entertainment. But now writers, directors and producers schooled in the 60s political milieu were in control.

Blaxploitation

“All in the Family, Maude and Good Times were all part of the same world. All in the Family acknowledged the deep rifts in American society – America was at war with itself. Yet it did it in a soft enough way to not offend people.”

US blacks had been ignored until the civil rights struggle of the 1960s woke up a dopey white America. In the 1970s, blacks were being portrayed like never before in the media and popular culture. But all of this awareness took a twisted turn.

“I think what happened among blacks was they saw their leaders either killed or put in jail. And that was devastating. Blacks really turned to electoralism in the 70s. A lot of black people started running for office. While trying to change things from outside the system, they realized the price was too high. A lot of black people were involved in making those blaxploitation movies, but so were a lot of white people. Shaft and Superfly are like the bookends of the genre. They were really made by black filmmakers. But then there were all these ripoff versions starring football players – whitebread ideas of what black culture was like.”

Pagan Kennedy’s latest book, Platforms: A Microwaved Cultural Chronicle of the 1970s, is published by St. Martin’s Press and available in most book shops. She’s got a really cool collection of eight-track tapes and drives a yetch! 1974 Plymouth Valiant.

Her website is here: https://www.pagankennedy.space/

“Tripping on 70s Culture”: Watch Magazine was published in Toronto, Canada in the 1990s. “The Bi-Weekly Student Perspective on Culture, Issues and Trends.”
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Opinion: Canada is allowing U.S. to dictate Haiti’s renewal: More news and opinion on what the UN soldiers call the “Haitian Vacation”

By David South

Id Magazine (Canada), August 22 to September 4, 1996

An August 19 attack on the Port-au-Prince police headquarters by pissed-off former Haitian soldiers should be a wake up call to Canadians. So far, the Haiti UN mission has seemed as safe as the soldiers’ quip, the “Haitian Vacation”. The UN soldiers patrol the capital in rickety Italian trucks, stopping to chat with the locals. On the surface, this mission looks like summer camp compared to the nightmare of enforcing peace in the former Yugoslavia.

But for one crucial factor: The UN troops are propping up an increasingly unpopular government. A government that is seen by many Haitians to be getting its orders from Washington, not Port-au-Prince. Canadian troops lead the UN mission in Haiti and make up 700 of the 1500 soldiers stationed there (the rest are from Pakistan and Bangladesh). There is a serious danger they will be caught in the crossfire of any uprising or coup attempt.

Canadian troops shadow president Rene Preval 24 hours a day and also guard the National Police. When I visited the dilapidated palace in July, with its handful of Canadian troops banging away on laptop computers, I could only hope nobody will want to mess with the UN.

The two prongs of Haitian renewal – reforming the economy and the justice system – are both being directed by the U.S.. Haitian senator Jean-Robert Martinez had a theory about the August 19 attack, which killed a shoeshine boy. Martinez believes it was in retaliation for government plans to privatize Haiti’s rotting nationalised industries – a condition for receiving loans from the U.S. and the Washington-based International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Haiti is a good example of the carnage of cynical U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. wooed and then coddled the corrupt Haitian elite to run its sweatshops. As the “development” organization USAID once said, Haiti could be the “Taiwan of the Caribbean”. The U.S. trained the Haitian death squad Front pour l’Avancement et le Progres Haitien (FRAPH), who then littered the outskirts of Port-au-Prince with the bodies of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s supporters during the dark days of the 1991 coup.

Three weeks ago American troops from the 82nd Airborne plopped down on the streets of Port-au-Prince to spend a week patrolling. What kind of message does this send? This tells the Haitians that the UN isn’t the real deal; that if they get out of line, the Americans will kick their butts. Why does Canada allow the U.S. to undermine the credibility of our peacekeeping mission?

More visits by the Americans can be expected. It is no accident that a medical team attached to the 82nd Airborne remains on duty at the American base in Port-au-Prince.

The so-called justice reforms are mostly window dressing. Canada spent $4,750,000 to build and renovate court houses for the same corrupt judges that were the problem in the first place. That’s the equivalent of punishing a thief by buying him/her some new furniture.

Rather than telling the Haitians to tighten their buckles around hungry bellies, Canada should be leading the fight to pave roads and provide clean water and social services to all. Canada should not be helping to impose austerity economics on the Western hemisphere’s poorest country.

David South is the Features Editor of id Magazine

“U.S. Elections Update: Clinton is using Canada to keep control of Haiti”.
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022