Monday, February 20, 2006

The moped, mobile phone and the micro entrepreneur

The moped is a much derided vehicle, atleast on Indian roads. It is slow on the highways, a pain in traffic because it runs circles around other vehicles far more than a bike or a scooter and an irritation when it breaks down at signals. Some of these contraptions also have a pedal option, which is used by its owners to get out a signal at 3 km/h, when their contraption fails to start. But, it also has a role to play in our economy. Down South, where TVS motor rules the roost, the moped is popular. It is not popular with college students (guys prefer bikes, girls prefer variomatics), but it popular with another segment. The milk delivery man, postmen, the newspaper delivery men, even the scrap traders (as pictured above) who I call micro entrepreneurs. These were the guys who used a bicycle once upon a time and have now upgraded to mopeds.

Mopeds are dirt cheap and give amazing value for money for a litre of petrol. (A 100 cc bike gives upwards of 80 km to a litre, these 50 and 70 something cc vehicles can give much more. It is not uncommon some of these things being filled with petrol for 25 rupees (half a litre) or less. I have seen a moped being filled for 10 rupees. These things are not fast, but they are rugged and remove the dependence on public transport for their owners. The moped is as functional a vehicle as it can get, since their owners really dont care for how a moped looks.

Be that as it may, the much derided moped is a big multiplier for the small time trader. With the mobile phone, and their recently launched life time free recharges the moped probably serves the lower middle class the most in their needs.

When I asked the waste newspaper man to come home to collect the newspapers, he did so on a moped (and gave me a ride back home, weaving through some routes only he knows). And then as he left, he flashed his mobile phone and told me, the next time you need me give me a call and I will be there.

Now imagine this. In the place where I stay, someone or other needs a junk newspaper guy every once in a while. We post this phone number on our notice board and it is as good as an advertisement for him. Ever heard of a scrap dealer advertise? The mobile serves this purpose. This is not an isolated example. Vegetable sellers, hawkers and many other service providers expand their area of operation using mobile phones.

The moped has, for long, been a loyal servant of these small time entrepreneurs. With micro re charge and free incoming calls adding to the mopeds frugal cost of ownership and maintenance, these twin accessories are a leap for the micro trader who aspires to be big some day.

(What is shown above is a moped that is lightly loaded. The mopeds one sees on roads are loaded on all possible sides. )

13 comments:

Niti Bhan said...

Thank you for yet another insightful post. That's a TVS 50 XL - I was the proud owner of one in college in Blr when I got mine for my 20th birthday.

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful post and picture.
-Vikas Kamat

ankan said...

excellent post......mopeds rule for the small guy as does the mobile.

Nikhil Narayanan said...

The "thenga vettukaaran"(coconut plucker??) who comes home is usually contacted on his cell phone...

phantom363 said...

i love the concept of the moped. it is probably the most efficient way to use petrol and get yourself from a to b, outside of using your 'nataraja' power. in places like denmark and the netherlands, with a small landmass and high population density, it is not uncommon for a family to have as many mopeds as there are adults. i hope a day comes, when even a beggar in india has his own moped, and goes from area to area to carry out his trade. :)

Yatin Sethi said...

Nice post Neelakantan.

Not only vegetable sellers, dealers and hawkers, even the housemaids and cooks also keep a moped and mobile nowadays to keep connected and gain more business.

Mike Paahana said...

MOPEDS DA BOMB Im da Moped God of Hawaii

Anonymous said...

Tata NANO will do to 4 wheeler what the mopeds did to the two wheelers...!

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