After facing a tough competition from the recently introduced online ride-hailing services, rickshaw drivers in Lahore adopted a self-help approach and eventually embraced the technology to strengthen their businesses.
A representative body of the rickshaw drivers, Awami Rickshaw Union, has launched an online service to ensure that they do not lose their share in the local transportation sector.
The modern-day ride-hailing services, particularly Uber and Careem, have significantly dented the income of conventional rickshaw and taxi drivers in the country.
Displeased with the situation, rickshaw drivers had launched protest drives, besides approaching courts against the ride-hailing services, but they failed to achieve the desired result.
As a last resort, the rickshaw drivers managed to launch their own application titled Awami Sawari Client.
Also read: Uber-like service for rickshaws in Lahore
Addressing the launch ceremony in Lahore, the rickshaw union chairman Majeed Ghauri claimed that with this latest move the local rickshaw drivers have challenged the "rogue" companies which were allegedly transferring money abroad "without paying due taxes in the country".
He said their online application will also provide a sigh of relief to commuters as it will ensure that they are charged according to meters.
Explaining the working of the newly launched app, Ghauri said the rickshaw drivers will be registered after proper documentation, and then they will be provided with "both technical and ethical training".
Details reveal that each rickshaw driver will have to take 60 rides in one week to ensure an income of at least Rs4,000. Like any other company, the application will charge 20 per cent of the total income of a rickshaw driver.
"Almost 85,000 rickshaws have been registered with local authorities and out of the total, some 60,000 rickshaws are operating in the city," Majeed Ghauri told Dawn.com.
Talking about the application, he said that with the induction of online ride-hailing services, a visible class-based divide became a challenge for the rickshaw drivers. He alleged that the modern services were depriving the rickshaw drivers of their businesses, the majority of whom are illiterate.
To deal with this situation a group of three engineers and the rickshaw association decided to develop a new application for the local rickshaw drivers. We have launched the application under a newly established firm Awami Sawari as a joint venture by the association and the engineers who developed the application.
"We will provide free legal cover to our drivers. Deserving drivers will also be provided with free smartphones," Ghauri added.