Where is an auto rickshaw when you need it the most? This is the problem that entrepreneurs Padmasree Harish and Harish Balasubramani are trying to deal with through Easy Auto, which aims to provide a unique auto service to local commuters.Business idea behind ‘Easy Auto’
In recent times, there has been a rise in the number of rickshaw or taxi drivers refusing to commute passengers from point A to point B.
“In places like Mumbai, it is a rule of sorts that rickshaw and cab drivers can not refuse to transport commuters from one place to another,” says Padmasree Harish, co-founder, Easy Auto. “Due to high demand, the rickshaw and cab drivers have an upper hand in choosing if they want to travel on a particular route or not. In Bengaluru, getting an auto rickshaw has always been a big problem. With arrogant rickshaw drivers refusing to abide by passenger requests, the task becomes all the more gruelling. Easy Auto not only helps commuters to find an easy means of transportation but also makes sure that rickshaw drivers have a common centre for passengers,” adds Padmasree.
The concept of Easy Auto is something like a prepaid cab for which to book you can book online or call their helpline. The husband-wife duo founded this venture in 2008. Just like any other prepaid cab services, Easy Auto provides an easy-to-get auto rickshaw service. You can send an SMS, book online or call up the help-line number.
Currently, they have their services set in two cities - Bengaluru and Patna. However, they are in the process of setting up services in other metros. “But the setting up will take a while as organising auto rickshaw transportation is harder than organising cabs or cars”, quips Padmasree.
How does it work?
The Easy Auto service is easily available to anyone who wants to save time and energy and needs to use public transport to travel everyday. To avail this service, one needs to register through Easy Auto by paying a one-time fee of Rs.75. “Registration forms are available at particular centres all across Bengaluru and Patna. We also have home delivery service, where our executives deliver and pick up the forms from the customer’s home/office,” informs Padmasree.
A casual commuter can use the Easy Auto service by taking one from Easy Auto stands and kiosks. There are nearly 1500 Easy Auto Stands and kiosks in Bengaluru alone. This scheme has been authorised and approved by the Government of Karnataka as well. The Easy Auto model provides the following services:
1) School Autos
2) Auto Pools
3) Surface transport integration
4) Women-driven autos
5) Cheaper mode of sight-seeing
Challenges in setting up Easy Auto
When the husband-wife duo started this venture in 2008, they knew that they would not only have to deal with changing the perceptions of their prospective customers about travelling by a rickshaw but also, train the rickshaw drivers. “As there is a first-time registration charge to use the Easy Auto service, the customer expects us to treat him/her like the king and as service providers we are supposed to do exactly that. At the same time, dealing with auto drivers, who have to be trained in the basics of customer satisfaction is another story altogether. In addition, we have to strive to keep up with our response time in the peak hours of Bengaluru traffic,” she says.
“Currently in the prepaid rickshaw market, it is only our firm Easy Auto as we are still trying to put the concept out there for the customers to see that their only means of travel is not personal transportation or cabs,” says Padamsree. However, the founders do feel that their main competition is the prepaid taxi firms which have caught up in India on a large scale.
Funding Easy Auto
Like any startup in India, Padmasree and her husband took almost two years to gather sufficient funds for this scheme. “Our auto rickshaws are certified by the RTO in terms of security and are fitted with GPS (global positioning system), which allows you to locate your auto and track its progress. All this technology comes at a price and we did not want to compromise.”
Most of their finance came from personal funds along with some support from friends and family. However, once it took off, they received a lot of support from the local RTO offices and the government. “We also organise sessions, where we train the auto drivers on passenger hospitality and safe driving. These sessions are held at regular intervals so that we are connected to our basic customers as well,” adds Padmasree.
Vinnie Bhadra | YourStory.in