THE LEAD STAR Outlets
Vol 6 Issue 35, Aug 28 - Sep 3, 2015
    Citizen Reporters      |   | Submit Story
Green WarriorsSocial EntrepreneursUnsung Heroes

Wheels of change put lives of rickshaw pullers on the right track

   By  Akash Bisht
  
02 Sep 2015
Posted 14-Dec-2012
Vol 3 Issue 50

In India everyone has had their cycle rickshaw moment. Be it the common folk of a mofussil town or a fashionista of a glitzy metro, we all have at least once travelled in these colourful tricycles.

However, few of us may have given a thought why despite ‘shining’ India’s growth in the last few decades, the humble rickshaw seems to be frozen in time.

Naveen (extreme left) has the satisfaction of changing the lives of the poor rickshaw pullers

Seen as a giant technological leap from the hand pulled cart in the early 1940s, the number of cycle rickshaws in India have grown exponentially in the last several decades and have become an integral part of the public transport system. In Delhi alone, close to 10 lakh rickshaws crawl on busy motorised streets.

Belonging to the most marginalised sections of the society, these rickshaw pullers have been condemned to live in crowded dingy shanties while the poorer ones spend the night sleeping on the same rickshaw that earns them bread during the day and substitutes as bed during the night.

Subjugated by contractors, government officials, mafia and passengers alike, these men have repeatedly been neglected by various pressure groups and government agencies.

As a young boy, Naveen Krishna too grew up watching these rickshaws crawl through the crammed bylanes of Varanasi. His heart bled when he witnessed the daily ordeal of these simple and hardworking souls who were vulnerable and unorganised.

Naveen often thought about bringing a change in their lives. So, soon after he graduated from Banaras Hindu University, he felt the urge to help them in whatever possible way he could.

However, it was only after he got an opportunity to work with CAPART (Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology) in Guwahati that he got acquainted with an NGO which was working for the rights of these pullers.

He understood the problems of the rickshaw pullers and dreamt of starting a social enterprise that would help them. But he lacked funds for the project he had in mind.

A chartered accountant contributed Rs.50000 as start-up capital after much persuasion. Finally, Naveen launched his company, SMV Wheels Private Limited, in Varanasi in April, 2010. Few others also invested in the company soon after.

Naveen realised his dream. Today, his company sells cycle rickshaws on instalment to poor pullers, giving them an extended repayment period of up to 50 weeks. He also gets advertisements to be displayed on the rickshaws and shares the revenue with the pullers.

Till November 20, 2012, the company had sold 1000 rickshaws in Varanasi and Jaunpur and in the process has liberated many who plied their rickshaws paying high daily rentals to mafias.

The project has attracted overseas investors. Five companies from US, UK and Netherlands have invested in the company.

“Since we buy in bulk, we get a rickshaw worth Rs 13,000 at Rs 11,500. The puller has to pay a monthly instalment of about Rs 300 for 48 to 50 weeks before he becomes the sole owner. We charge Rs 2000 as service fee,” says Naveen, explaining how the company works.

The company also provides identification cards to the pullers so that they are not harassed by the police. “If the police have any queries about any of the pullers, they can call us for verification,” says Naveen, who adds that his venture has helped in curbing the mafia control over the trade.

"Earlier, these pullers would just rent a rickshaw from these mafia styled operatives and then be subjected to harassment. But, with our initiative the influence of the mafia has gone down considerably."

SMV Wheels also provides insurance benefits to the pullers. Naveen is in talks with insurance firms like Oriental and Max Life to display their ads at the back of the rickshaws.

“It gives them some extra income. Till the time the entire amount of the rickshaw is repaid, we give a share of the ad revenue to the puller. Once he becomes the owner, we share the revenue equally,” says Naveen.

Hundreds of pullers now have their own rickshaws

It may appear that SMV Wheels is having a dream run, but the company is battling a host of challenges that has Naveen worried. He is miffed with banks that ask for 100 per cent collateral for loans.

“How will social enterprises grow if banks are not willing to provide loans and charge 14 per cent interest rate?” he asks.

Naveen has plans to expand in UP, Bihar, MP, Delhi, Rajasthan, West Bengal and some other states, but capital crunch is holding him back.

He is worried that nobody cares to improvise the rickshaws. "Nothing is being done to make these machines simpler. Though there have been talks about solar powered rickshaws and other alternatives, nothing much has happened," he laments.

However, Naveen takes great pride in having made a substantial change in the lives of hundreds of pullers.

"When I met these pullers initially, they had no confidence but after aligning with us their outlook towards life has changed. Pullers now want more facilities and are even ready to pay for these services.

“Earlier, they would just spend a day's earnings on booze and dope, but now they have started to save and have that feeling of ownership. This is a great change and I am happy that I have been able to bring about this change."
 



Print  |  Email  | 
 Share   


You might also like:

All for Organic

Going organic has not been a path strewn with roses for those who ventured into it. But many of them have managed to pull it up giving farmers good prices and consumers chemical-free eatables

Read More

Banking and Laundering

Three leading private sector banks, HDFC, ICICI and Axis, have been accused of laundering black money. Their officials are caught on hidden camera giving suggestions to launder illegal money

Read More
Stories on Innovations & Innovators
THE LEAD STAR
adyar bakery
 
Mentoring Tamil Nadu



Popular Stories

The transformer

Irrigation wells, schools, a weavers’ cooperative and many such schemes have transformed villages in Maharashtra’s Sangli and Kolhapur districts. But Arun Chavan, the man behind it all, is not known outside the area, says Kavita Kanan Chandra

Read More

A real motivator

Former President A P J Abdul Kalam not just asked the youth to dream but also motivated people, helping them realise their dreams. P C Vinoj Kumar has the story of former army driver V Kathiresan becoming assistant professor, thanks to Kalam

Read More

People’s bridge

The new 225 feet long bridge across river Ghaggar, linking the villages of Panihari and Alikan in Haryana, is a model project. Costing Rs 1.5 crore, the bridge is an example of a people’s initiative, funded by the public, says Partho Burman

Read More

Barefoot protector

From a ‘crying bed’ that alerts mom to change baby’s diaper to ‘auto-safe’ helmet making distress call in the event of an accident, Rudra Narayan Mukherjee has fabricated a plethora of devices from a tin-roof lab, says Santosh H K Narayan

Read More

Poverty’s child

Once a domestic help, it is just natural that Anuradha Bhosale dedicated her life to protect children from exploitation. Kavita Kanan Chandra tells us how she charted her path out of poverty through education and work among child labourers

Read More

Chicken dream

It is sheer grit and determination that took B Soundararajan, MD of Suguna Holdings, to such dizzy heights. P C Vinoj Kumar meets the man, whose poultry business makes a turnover of Rs 5500 crore

Read More

A grandpa’s story

At 97, Sudhanshu Biswas is a busy man. Taking care of 50 boys and 6 senior citizens, meticulously monitoring if they are served food on time and so on, at his home near Kolkata, he keeps visitors waiting. G Singh found the waiting worthwhile

Read More

Caring by habit

A Chennai woman’s simple gesture of donating the money she gets from selling old newspapers, collected from homes, to two orphanages is an inheritance from her parents, who always took care of poor youth at their home, says P C Vinoj Kumar

Read More

From scratch

ConceptWaves is a successful company. But 10 years ago its founder Raghu Kanchustambham launched his first project as his team was falling apart. Sapna Gopal traces the entrepreneur’s journey

Read More

Lavender dream

Realising that medicine was not her calling, Gazalla Amin pursued a dream to cultivate aromatic plants, never to look back, says Afsana Rashid, explaining the blossoming of entrepreneurship

Read More
 
Kudos image

"The Weekend Leader not only gives a glimpse of the better things happening around us but also tells stories of people who made it possible.”

Ajay Chaturvedi, Entrepreneur More Kudos
 
Archives  |   Columns  |   About Us  |   Contact Us  |   Feedback  |   Response  |     |   Cheers!  |   Support Us  |   Friends of Positive Journalism
© Copyright The Weekend Leader.com, 2010. All rights reserved.