15 Business lessons from auto rickshaw drivers

1) The power of the first impression:

Auto — Come what may, most autorickshaw drivers clean their autos every single day. Also, it is not an unlikely sight to find autos lavishly decked up in lights, posters, and colors. This sure creates an impression on the commuter’s mind, who would identify that auto from the rest the next time they are traveling.

2) Marking your territory:

Auto — Autorickshaw drivers are quite keen on sticking to particular areas of operation, where they build their rapport with others of their tribe and frequent commuters. They are distributed area wise and mark their territories accordingly wherein they cater to commuters of that particular area only.

3) Have a multi-directional approach:

Auto — We are more often than not inconvenienced by the constant haggling and hustling of autorickshaw drivers, sometimes even when we may just be taking a walk in our neighborhood! They keep hustling to get one passenger, from pillar to post. And most are now slowly becoming open to the idea of a tie-up with Ola and other such aggregators to increase their chances of a continuous trip.

4) Make your foes your allies:

Auto — In our country, commuters are often faced with two contrasting situations with respect to autos. One when they keep waiting for hours hoping for at least one auto driver to agree to take them to their destination, and second when they stop an auto and multiple others come tailgating! If the first driver denies the trip, the second one (tail-gator) comes to the rescue and grabs the opportunity.

5) Target the specific requirement of your clients:

Auto — Before starting the trip, the driver always asks for the full address and a nearby landmark, and then quotes the tariff (as more often than not, the meter is not functional!). They take up the trip only if they are traveling on that particular route and if it suits their set of requirements!

6) The art of negotiation:

Auto — Auto drivers in our country are quite adept at taking advantage of specific instances when consumer demand is high. They quote higher tariff during peak hours, late night hours, rainy days etc. However, they still manage to convince commuters to avail of the service by providing them with options of alternate routes and the like, and plus it is better to have some option to reach one’s destination rather than none at all! The auto drivers also make sure that the tariff is well negotiated and understood before starting the trip.

7) Have the right attitude:

Auto — Indian commuters are well acquainted with the word NO. Finding an auto driver to agree to take one home or to one’s destination often feels like sifting through a treasure trove to hit the jackpot! The consumer is the king often does not hold good for auto drivers who blatantly say NO if they are not interested to take you. Sometimes, even when you are ready to pay more!

8) Fix your base price:

Auto — Auto rickshaws have a fixed base price, which in Bengaluru is INR 25 for the first 1.8 kilometers, INR 13/km for every additional kilometer and INR 1/minute as waiting charge. These prices are fixed irrespective of where or how far you have to commute.

9) Keep your clients updated:

Auto — Auto rickshaws are equipped with meters to keep the commuter updated about the basic and most essential details about his travel such as distance (km), charges and waiting time. This communication is crucial to inform the passengers about the total charge for the trip.

10) Be wise in choosing the route:

Auto — It is next to impossible to get an auto driver to agree to a short trip. And quite often one is forced to hit the streets on one’s own legs rather than bartering with auto drivers. This is because they look at the bigger picture of profitability, even if means saying no to a few commuters. Auto drivers prefer taking passengers involving longer routes as shorter routers mean getting stuck in traffic and losing out other prospective trips, and the perks of earning INR 1/min as a waiting charge are also not inviting enough for these keen drivers.

11) Build a strong relationship:

Auto — Have you ever wondered how easily we are led into a conversation with an autorickshaw driver during a trip? We are often unconsciously drawn into chit-chat with the drivers, so much so that we end up discussing every topic under the sun — be it the weather, traffic, politics, and sometimes we even end up being acquainted with the driver’s family members!! This is how they inadvertently building a relationship with the commuter, so that he becomes their choice of ride every other time that the commuters notice him on the road.

12) All work and no play can make work a DULL job:

Auto — Autos these days are no less than cars, being equipped with music systems with bass speakers and what not! Auto drivers like to keep themselves and the passengers entertained during the journey. Also, they engage themselves in casual chit-chatting with fellow auto drivers, playing cards, and chewing tobacco when not involved in a trip. These are nothing but means to keep them going through a stressful day.

13) Adhere to meticulous terms of payment:

Auto — Auto drivers are very stringent when it comes to payment. They make their charges clear prior to the commencement of the trip. It could be the meter cost or 20 extra or typically ‘oonnendaaaf’ (one and a half) for a night trip in Bengaluru! Additional charges are applicable in case of any changes in the drop location.

14) Build comrades:

Auto — Auto rickshaws in our country are largely governed by Unions and other such comradeship. Unions are responsible for fixing basic tariffs and giving other kinds of support to such rickshaw drivers. The drivers know their tribes and vehemently support each other through thick and thin, be it staging protests or sharing a casual fag in a middle of a hard day’s work.

15) Stick to minimalism:

Auto — How many times have you found an auto-rickshaw driver making sure that he locks the auto before going for lunch, or to attend the call of nature? Not even once right? This is because they feel that they hardly have anything to lose! Conversely, how many times do we make sure that we have locked our car when we get out of it? The odds are clear!

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Vignesh Subramani

Vignesh Subramani

Digital Marketing Trainer & Helping startups to achieve their business goals. vigneshsubramani.com