Auto-rickshaws are called by many names across the world – tuk-tuk, auto, bajaji, baby taxi and more. Every Indian humbly refers to it as rickshaw or auto. In India, Autos were first manufactured by the Bajaj group with the design originally from Piaggio. They have been a part and parcel of Indian transport and of course Bengaluru is no exception. I remember my childhood days when autos were a form of luxury and a graduation from the good old BMTC buses. There was a sense of excitement in every child to ride in an auto, with siblings fighting for the corner seat to play the game of “catch the breeze by your face and let your mouth run dry”!!! Those days, just like one had a family physician, one would also have a family autowalla who was just round the corner when the need beckoned – be it for the aunty to run an errand to grocery store or the uncle who has missed his office bus and rushing punch the clock on time at work.
Cut to 2010s, autos are moving towards a slow death. With the plethora of IT companies offering their own transport, autos are limited to families and weekend population. It is still the fastest means of transport, since autowallas have a secret mantra to ensure your travel time is reduced significantly. Ever wondered what that might be? It’s of course the google map residing in their minds. They know every single shortcut and side road/galli as popularly referred to by locals here. They will just amaze you with the routes while you sit at the edge of your seat wondering whether the rocky stretch which is called a road, will eventually lead somewhere or not!!!
With the advent of the new wave of unicorns who have spread their wings in the transport space like Ola and Uber, autos are no more the goto option. And why not? With the kind of benefits they offer like competitive prices, luxury and comfort of a taxi at the price of an auto , easy access with mobile apps , safety and 24 hr access at minimal extra price, it’s an easy choice for the customer. With the introduction of a new feature like cab-sharing, one can keep the conscience and environment clean by reducing the carbon footprint. And the icing on the cake could be the prospect of meeting your soulmate in one of these rides :).
While Ola is still trying to keep the autos alive by roping them into their offerings, the resistance of autowallas to adapt to the changing needs is fastening the process of their extinction. Am sure most of the Bangaloreans would have a story to tell about the use of their haggling skills to negotiate the exorbitant prices quoted by them.
It’s time that the union of autorickshaws sit up and realise where this is heading and put their efforts to bring back the glory days of autos, else it will surely become a thing of the past!!!
I better take a picture of one to treasure it since it might soon become an antique in the coming years!