Venu Kumar (in picture above) rents his auto and cant afford to own own. Autos are priced at around Rs. 1,25,000 and another 25,000 to get it registered and ready to run. Venu drives his auto for 12 hours a day. Makes meter earnings of between Rs. 550 and Rs. 800 a day. He needs to pay Rs 150 to rent his auto a day and another Rs. 200 for the LPG gas that runs his auto. That makes it a running cost of Rs 350 a day - his break even point. Everything he makes over that figure is what he gets to keep (approximately 200 to 450 Rs).
Venu has a family of 5 - a mom, his wife and three children. His children are in 8th standard, 7th and 1st standard at school. He is the only bread winner in his family. He admits that his eldest son couldn't study further and he had to get him to take the vocation of a tailor to help him meet his own expenses.
With earnings of around Rs. 6,000 to Rs 9,000 a month (let us assume 7,500), he pays a rent of Rs. 1500 for his rented small home in Banaswadi. He pays over Rs. 15,000 for his children's schooling a year - approx Rs. 1500 a month. That leaves around 4,500 to take care of all other expenses - food, clothing, medicine for a family of 5 for a month - that Rs. 150 a day and Rs 30 per person in the family! Thats less than a US $ or a Euro a day.
Venus says some auto rickshaws run in two shifts. 6 AM to 2 PM (at a rental of Rs 80) and 2 PM through 10 PM (rental of Rs. 120). He manages to take about 4 days off month - mostly driven by family pressures and the odd day when he is unwell. He say the money that comes in every day just goes away for expenses the same day and he is often in debt with creditors. He had a resigned look about himself when he said that. But amidst all this he manages to own a cell phone that is paid off for a year for incoming and some limited calls.
We reach our destination and I notice the meter, it reads Rs 81.
Wiser after my chat with Venu, I know what my ride's fare means to him...
- Around 20% of his break even cost. He needs nine more long rides like this for a good days earnings, probably many more smaller drops
- Around 40% of his daily LPG costs
- Covers daily expenses for 2.5 people in his family. Half his daily family expenses.
- Around 5% of his monthly expenses to educate his children.
I showed him the pictures I took of him on my phone and he managed a smile when I told him I would be publishing this on the internet (he knew what it meant!).
Life moves on for Venu... He is on the look out for his next customer...