It’s time to talk about the tag line on our logo.
I was talking about mGaadi to a policy wonk friend (PW) some months ago. He shared his own auto driver story. The sheer ubiquity of the auto rickshaw in the Indian milieu is such that everyone has a story (or two) to tell about auto drivers. Here’s how I recall PW’s story.
As we drove into the large gated apartment community, the auto driver (AD) got all wistful and said something on the lines of yeh sab humare naseeb mein nahin likha hai (translates to “all this is not in OUR fate”).
PW: “Why not? Today you are driving a rented auto rickshaw. Tomorrow you’ll save enough money to make a down payment on an auto rickshaw. After a few more years, you’ll be able to save enough to purchase a small house on a loan. And so on.”
AD: (shaking his head vigorously) “No sir. That is just impossible. I’ve been *renting* and driving this auto rickshaw for the last 10 years. I haven’t been able to save enough.. nor do I see that situation changing anytime soon.”
In Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo’s book Poor Economics, they refer to AD’s situation as being perpetually stuck in a ‘poverty trap’. In all our discussions with auto drivers and review of existing studies, what came through loud and clear was that the vast majority of auto drivers (around 70%) don’t own their livelihood vehicle. Many of them drive for decades and end up never owning a vehicle. The story of Mishra-ji is not unique at all. When I interviewed him last year, Mishra-ji was working as a security guard after ‘retiring’ from his auto rickshaw driver job of 24 years.
We believe that vehicle ownership is at least a ‘necessary’ (but definitely not ‘sufficient’) condition to get auto rickshaw drivers out of their ‘poverty trap’. Increasing driver incomes, reducing “dead miles” and waiting time, adding determinism to daily incomes… these are some of the outcomes we are trying to achieve via mGaadi.
The design patterns of our product aim to address commuters’ pain points as well as achieving desirable outcomes for drivers. We want both commuters and drivers to Go Places! We hope you’ll join us on this journey.