Inside the Rickshaw Ride

15.08.19 12:06 AM By Indus Bound

The 17 languages listed on the Indian currency prove that amongst the 28 states, Hindi and English are the only prevailing languages. Almost all else varies depending on a state’s culture and religion. Even the traditional Sari is draped differently among women in the north vis-à-vis central or south India. The variety of street food, handicrafts and textiles to cultural practices and politics are symbolic of India’s great diversity. Our client’s however, often detect the exception to the rule: the most local of local transportation’s  i.e. the rickshaw.

The auto rickshaw is the most convenient and consistent mode of local travel you are bound to sight, no matter what state of India you’re exploring. Painted a bright yellow and green in New Delhi, and pumped with eco-friendly CNG; they certainly add their fair share of color and commotion to the traffic. On narrower lanes, goods and services are both delivered by the cycle rickshaw; a shaded seating for two with enough foot space to steady oneself over the bumps, altogether attached to a bicycle.

A ride in the cycle rickshaw meandering through the narrow streets of Old Delhi is the most accurate ground level insight into India a guest can attain. Outside Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, a cue of cycle rickshaws motion for customers to take a ride. Upon selection, fasten your seatbelt. It’s a legitimate debate whether a BMX pro can pull off the tricks these men do so casually! This certainly entitles a quick tip: as the bumpy roads and jerky movements send a thrill down your spine, keep your feet planted on the metal rod connected to the cycle. It will free your hands from clutching onto the side bars and onto the camera. Observe how the rickshaw puller dodges the passerby’s or the cows on the streets. The rickshaw ride is perhaps the most fascinating and unique manner to discover the movement of a city at such close proximity without influencing it.

…And remember, we’re in this adventure with you, as part of India Private Tours. Our team of concierge is only a phone call away and always happy to accompany you…

“Despite the many people who were inches away from those wheels, no toes were run over!” a client from Australia recently shared with delight. How the puller instinctually knows the right millisecond to press the breaks is a real mystery. A mystery that every client of ours travelling to Delhi gets the occasion to experience at Chandni Chowk, the busy main road in a 15th century city. On either side of constricted lanes that house not only shops in heritage buildings but the population of an entire city; our clients witness what they refer to as an “unforgettable experience”. This always leads to a series of questions that delve into life in India. How does this business work? Who can drive an auto rickshaw? Where do they get them? How much do they earn a day? What if it rains?

Inspired by the relentlessly fearless pullers out there, here is a quick inside on the Cycle Rickshaw business dedicated to all curious travelers, where ever you may be now…We hope to see you in India very soon…

The Rickshaw Enterprise

Setting the Context:
Although there are no precise statistics on this highly disorganized industry, here is what we do know. There are approximately 10 million cycle rickshaws in the whole of India. Of these, 65 to 70% are operational at any given point of time. 70% of rickshaw workers are migrants from the state of Bihar. Many of these workers have feared that the modernization of India’s transport, for example the launch of the Metro in 2010, would ruin the industry. However, a healthy growth of 10% have smoothened many creased foreheads and turned many frowns upside down. In fact, modern transportation has reinforced the use of rickshaws. By facilitating long distance travel between localities as does the Metro, rickshaws parked directly outside the station can now take passengers on the smaller distances to their exact destination. The ability to fit through small spaces combined with an extremely economical rate certainly adds to the sheer popularity and convenience.

On a Business Note:

The rickshaw wala generally does not own the rickshaws. A dealer owns approximately 50 rickshaws and rents them out to licensed drivers at Rs.15 to 50 including maintenance charge. The price depends on the city in question; Delhi is reasonably more expensive than a smaller city such as Chandigarh. For the owner, it is a volume game: the more rickshaws he owns, the greater his payback. There are plenty of newly developed business strategies that offer loans to owners and pullers alike. Alternatively, there is also a separate initiative, carried forward by the youth, who aim to revolutionize the rickshaw: make it lighter, more spacious (but in turn, more expensive). Another surge of innovation has customized rickshaws as a mobile means of advertising.


The greatest challenge concerns the migrant laborers. Firstly, for those four months a year, when pullers migrate to different states for seasonal jobs, the workflow is disrupted from 100% capacity down to 70-80%. Second, coming from the lower middle class economic strata, many have no identity papers which lead to unlicensed rickshaw pullers (the victim of the traffic police). It is therefore essential to identify the licensed from the unlicensed driver; and only a local agent that works directly with selected pullers – such as Indus Bound – can assist with that.

Cost of a Rickshaw

Rs. 6,500 –  Rs. 8,000

Avg. Rent of a Cycle Rickshaw

Rs. 25

Life of a Rickshaw

5 years

Profit per Rickshaw per day (for a new rickshaw)

Rs. 18

Payback Period per rickshaw (without interest)

362 days

Avg. Salary per rickshaw puller per day

Rs. 450 – Rs. 500


*The figures above represent rickshaw owners/pullers in metro cities