Lined neatly in a row are 27 white auto rickshaws with spotless doors and glass windows. On a blue strip on their back a number is painted. Once they are out on the streets, they will give Qinqis a run for their money.
The Call-a-Rik project, launched on July 24, brings a rickshaw to one’s doorstep. Moreover, it gives one what one can call a luxury rickshaw ride with a backseat as big as Suzuki Mehran, doors which close like a car’s doors, an LCD screen for entertainment, and headphones for every passenger to buffer the noise outside. All that for an affordable price of Rs10 per kilometer on weekdays and Rs12 per kilometer on weekends.
The idea which received over 1,400 likes on its Facebook page originated in Mohsin Dharsi’s head.
Dharsi hates how unsafe the regular rickshaw is. “It is all open, children can fall off, passengers can get mugged at signals and it looks indecent when women’s clothes fly around in the wind.”
He promises that Call-a-Rik is a safe mode to travel.
“Each vehicle is installed with a tracking device so that our office knows exactly where each and every passenger is. If you put your child in one of our ricks you can find his exact location from us whenever you want.”
The project aims to increase the number of rickshaws in the city to 100 by December, and after that there are plans of introducing them in the cities of Lahore and Islamabad.
Once Dharsi comes up with an idea to improvise the engine, he thinks, he can launch an air-conditioned rickshaw too.
“We have received an overwhelming response by the public, way more than expected. Yesterday, I received a call from a Pakistani living in Germany who wanted to invest in 50 rickshaws with me.”
Dharsi claims that he has also received feedback from friends in Bangladesh, who want to replicate the project there.
All of the rickshaws are manufactured and assembled in Pakistan. “I love my country and would go to any extent to promote its products. The rickshaws are made and assembled in workshops in Punjab.”
The vehicles will travel to any place in Karachi, apart from Lyari, North Karachi and Kati Pahari, and a few more conflict-ridden areas.
When asked how much business Dharsi made on his first day, he laughs, “This is not a business venture, this is a social project. The Call-a-Rik is not my source of income. Right now there is no profit, but once the network spreads it will run on its own. And I do not want to raise the price from Rs10/km, at least not this year.”