Several months ago, Solomon and I were in a meeting with a micro financing institution (MFI) and we heard this story of a auto rickshaw driver who doesn’t refuse a single trip. He’d regularly put in a 12 hour day and gross around Rs. 1200 – well above the median daily earnings for an auto driver. Later I followed up with the MFI leader – did he perchance have the contact details of that auto driver? Alas he didn’t. I filed the episode as hearing about a rare sighting of a unicorn.
The unicorn finally took shape yesterday… in the form of an auto driver in his early 30’s (let’s call him “G”). G speaks Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi fluently. He also reads and understands English. We conversed in Telugu during our 45 minute trip.
A quick glance at the auto license sticker told me that G lived in Rajarajeshwari. I remarked that he’s come a long ways from his “home base”. He nonchalantly replied I go wherever the “duddu” (money in Kannada) takes me.
“Hardly any of my rides are within Rajarajeshwari itself. I’m in the Domlur and Indiranagar area almost daily”, he continued.
“As it gets closer to evening, you probably refuse some customers if it takes you further away from Rajarajeshwari?” I asked.
“No. Never. I always go where the customer wants me to go. I drive 12 hours daily and I make Rs. 1500 minimum.”
“Wow! Really? That’s a lot more earnings than what most drivers make.” I told G.
G nodded sagely and added “Sometimes I drive a few hours extra also. On most days, I spend Rs. 300-400 on fuel and food so my take home is over Rs. 1100.”
After paying the fare and taking down his mobile #, I ruminated on how he was able to optimize two seemingly conflicting goals. The not refusing a customer directive introduces a geographic randomness yet he seems to be reaching home close to his usual time. I suppose he directionally aligns himself to a few key artery roads after 3pm to increase the chances of finding commuters headed in “his” direction.
I call G’s operating philosophy as the never say no guarantee. As we enroll drivers for our pilot testing phase, I can’t help wondering how many such drivers are out there in Bangalore.
Have you met any of this breed yet?
Next time you get into an auto and (assuming the driver isn’t anti-social) do ask him this question “Do you ever refuse a customer?”
If he answers “no”, give him your best My first look at Taj Mahal look and promptly note down his mobile# and please share with us – either on this blog or on our Facebook page or on Twitter (@mgaadi_blr).