Categories
Archive

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. 

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

Categories
Archive Blogroll

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

Categories
Archive

Next Generation of Innovation for the Grassroots

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Taking inspiration from science fiction sagas like the TV show Star Trek, the next generation of innovation is already taking shape in the South. A group of innovative facilities called Fab Labs (short for Fabrication Laboratory) in Ghana, India, Kenya, South Africa and Costa Rica are applying cutting-edge technology to address the everyday needs of people.

Like the futuristic “replicator” in Star Trek, Fab Labs allow people to design and produce what they need there and then. The labs are mushrooming throughout the South as people get the innovation bug.

Originally an idea from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Bits and Atoms, which sponsors nine of the labs, Fab Labs let people use digital technology to build physical objects, from eyeglass frames to toys and computer parts. Fab Labs empower local invention by turning education, problem-solving and job creation into a creative process.

Started by Professor Neil Gershenfeld, Fab Labs use US $20,000 worth of computers, open source design software, laser cutters, milling machines and soldering irons, letting people harness their creativity to build things they need, including tools, replacement parts and essential products unavailable in the local market.

With minimal training, children and adults are designing and making their own toys, jewellery and even computer circuit boards with the machines. It turns people from consumers into inventors.

“Instead of bringing information technology to the masses, the Fab Labs bring information technology development to the masses,” said Gershenfeld.

In Ghana, the Takoradi Technical Institute in the southwest of the country hosts a Fab Lab, allowing a wide variety of people to use the “replicator” – from local street children to tribal chiefs – to make a wide range of products. The Ghana lab has several projects on the go, including antennae and radios for wireless internet networks and solar-powered machinery for cooking, cooling and cutting. The labs have found that the younger the users, the faster the skills are picked up.

John Silvester Boafo, principal at the Takoradi Technical Institute, is proud of what he calls a fu-fu pounder. “In a Ghanaian home, the main dish is fu-fu,” he told the BBC. “Fu-fu is made of plaintain and cassava, which are cooked. After they are cooked, they are put into a mortar and pounded by hand. People go through hard labour just to get a meal to eat. So, we thought we could fabricate this machine to alleviate the hard labour they use in pounding.”

They are also working on portable hand-held chargeable solar panels for televisions and refrigerators.

In Pabal, in the western part of Maharashtra, India, a Fab Lab was established at the Vigyan Ashram in 2002 and is now working on developing agricultural instruments. They are also testing milk for quality and safety, and tuning diesel engines to run more efficiently, especially with bio fuels. Another lab in Bithoor in the state of Uttar Pradesh (operated with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur) is working on 3-D scanning and printing for rural artisans, such as producing wooden blocks used in Chikan embroidery.

In South Africa, officials are in the process of setting up four labs. The first is in the capital Pretoria, home to Africa’s first “science park”. The second is in the township of Shoshanguve, a very poor community with high unemployment.

“We have these very high-tech small start-up companies that are excited by the proximity of the lab,” said Sushil Borde, head of the government agency charged with rolling out the four labs. “The companies say, ‘We have these brilliant ideas, we have these business models, but we don’t know how to get these ideas into tangible products.”

Borde hopes the network of Fab Labs will enable South African entrepreneurs and engineers to test their ideas and “fast track the process of growth and development.”

Seventeen-year-old Kenneth Chauke has been able to build a robot in the Fab Lab in Pretoria, he told the Christian Science Monitor.

IT supervisor Nthabiseng Nkadimeng at the Fab Lab in Shoshanguve, has been encouraging South African youth to dream expansively about new technology. “We want to encourage innovation,” she told the Christian Science Monitor. “A lot of the kids, right now, they’re making toys. That’s okay, it’s a start. But eventually we want them to do things that haven’t been done before.”

“It’s the idea that if you’re somewhere in rural South Africa, and you want something for solar energy, you can go to a Fab Lab and make your own,” said Naas Zaayman, who works for the government on coordinating the Fab Lab strategy.

Published: October 2007

Resources:

  • id21 Insights: A series of articles by the UK ’s Institute of Development Studies on how to make technology and science relevant to the needs of the poor:
  • Biography: Professor Neil Gershenfeld
  • eMachineShop: This remarkable service allows budding inventors to download free design software, design their invention, and then have it made in any quantity they wish and shipped to them: Amazing!

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

Categories
Archive

Indian Solar Economy Brings New Vocation for Women

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

India has started to make significant advances in developing solar power technologies for the poor. There are now whole villages using solar energy and improving their standard of living. Various companies and projects are selling inexpensive solar appliances – from cooking stoves to lanterns and power generators – across the country. This new solar power ‘grid’ is also bringing further economic opportunities: jobs for people to repair and maintain the new equipment.

An interesting initiative is turning the need to repair and maintain solar-powered equipment into a job opportunity for poor women.

More than 1.7 billion people around the world have no domestic electricity supply, of whom more than 500 million live in sub-Saharan Africa, and 400 million in India (World Bank). Some 600,000 Indian villages lack an electrical supply. India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has pledged “power for all” by 2012. An ambitious goal, and one that acknowledges that without electricity, many development goals remain dreams that will never be achieved.

Being able to see at night, for example, unleashes a vast range of possibilities – such as being able to work or study later – but for the very poor, lighting is often the most expensive household expense, soaking up 10 to 15 percent of income.

The power of the sun can help transform this situation. According to Greenpeace (http://www.greenpeace.org/international), India could generate 10 percent of its electricity from solar power by 2030.

In the Indian State of Rajasthan, more than 30,000 homes in 800 villages have turned to solar power for lighting and cooking needs. It is this increasing solar power grid that the Barefoot College (http://www.barefootcollege.org) based in Tilonia – where it was founded over 30 years ago – has turned to as a new economic opportunity. The College is training women to be solar engineers, developing both useful skills and a new income source. So far, Barefoot College itself has solar electrified some 350 villages across India and dozens more in sub-Saharan Africa and even war-torn Afghanistan.

The College prides itself on stripping out academic jargon while inspiring confidence in students’ innate talents and skills so they can take on new vocations.

The solar engineers – many of whom are illiterate – are taught by their peers. Given a box of tools and hardware, the students undertake practical projects to learn-by-doing how the solar devices work and can be repaired. They are introduced to technical terms and concepts and learn how to wire circuits and do daily repairs.

“It is only, we have found, an illiterate woman who is a teacher who can actually train an illiterate women who is a trainer,” the college’s founder, Bunker Roy, told the BBC. “They have the patience, tolerance and improvisation.”

Roy says the training teaches more knowledge of the technical aspects of solar power than a typical student would glean from an undergraduate university degree.

The Barefoot College takes its inspiration from former Indian leader Mahatma Ghandi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohandas_Karamchand_Gandhi), who felt the wisdom, knowledge and skills already existing in rural villages should be the basis for any development. He also believed deploying sophisticated technology in poor communities should be done on their terms to avoid exploitation.

The College is a passionate believer in the inherent skills and abilities of the poor to improve their conditions. It eschews formal qualifications, believing these can be as much a hindrance as a help, trapping people in rigid methodologies.

The Barefoot College has been working on solar electrification in poor and rural villages since 1989. It has used similar techniques to train teachers and teach medical skills.

The course has successfully attracted sponsored students from as far away as Africa. Sarka Mussara, a 56-year-old widowed grandmother from the West African nation of Mauritania, had never attended school or even left her village before coming to India on a UN sponsorship.

“We started little by little learning the solar energy system,” she told PBS. “Day by day and little by little we were able to put things together.”

The solar engineers become highly skilled and can even fabricate complex components like a charge controller (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge_controller) when they are back in the village.

One of the additional benefits of training skilled solar engineers is the more confident role these women play in their communities when they return. They often take the lead on other projects in the village.

The College also picks the tough cases: only villages that are inaccessible, remote or non-electrified get help.

Its approach is to have a meeting to introduce the benefits of solar lighting to the community. If the community wants it, then a village committee is formed. Any household that wants solar power has to pay a small fee, no matter how poor. This is to ensure they feel a sense of ownership of the new technology.

Some members of the community are then selected to be trained as “Barefoot Solar Engineers,” or BSEs. They will install, repair and maintain the solar lighting units for at least five years. A workshop is set up to carry out repairs fully equipped with tools and replacement parts. The solar engineers attend a six-month course at the College, leading to work for at least five years.

The Barefoot College encourages middle-aged women and widows and single mothers to become engineers. Experience has shown them to be the most reliable and less prone to moving to the city after training.

Published: May 2010

Resources

1) D.light Design is dedicated to bringing modern lighting and power to more than 1.6 billion people globally currently living without electricity. They aim to be the number one player in off-grid lighting and power solutions worldwide. Website: http://www.dlightdesign.com

2) Solar Power Answers is a one-stop-shop for everything to do with solar power. It has a design manual and guides to the complex world of solar power equipment. Website: http://www.solar-power-answers.co.uk/index.php

3) Sun King solar lantern: The lantern provides 16 hours of light for a day’s charge. Website: http://www.greenlightplanet.com/ourusers.html

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