There are 12 million auto-rickshaw drivers in India, and out of them, 50 per cent rent their vehicle. The financing that is currently available for auto-rickshaws drivers has an extremely high down payment and interest rates, making loans non-feasible for many drivers. Though electric 3-wheelers are more attractive for a driver due to a lower total cost of ownership and higher profitability, due to a lack of financing options, the auto drivers are unable to shift to electric vehicles.
To meet their demands, Cedrick Tandong, an entrepreneur born and raised in Cameroon, Africa, founded 'Three Wheels United' (TWU), along with Kevin Wervenbos, and Apurv Mehra in 2017. The platform works towards promoting sustainable last-mile connectivity by financing e-rickshaws and to improve the income of such drivers.
Tandong first visited India in 2008 as a management consultant. He was then inspired to start a platform that would help the lower and middle income groups of the society.
Shift From Conventional Engines To Electric Vehicles
Through their easy financing solutions, Three Wheels United helps drivers easily switch from conventional engines to electric vehicles, helps them generate more income, and reduce air pollution.
The Bengaluru-based tech-enabled startup directly finances auto-rickshaw drivers at a fair interest rate covering up to 100 per cent of the cost of the vehicle without asking for any collateral.
Unlike traditional banks that collect EMIs at the end of the month in a big chunk, Three Wheels United collects the money on a daily/weekly basis in small amounts TWU is able to tap into the finances of the drivers when they actually make money and in a way that it's aligned with their lifestyle.
The foundational principle on which the platform has been built is to leverage data to improve and support decision-making for all stakeholders by providing relevant contextual information as opposed to automating it.
TWU interacts with the drivers on an everyday basis, works with them closely to ensure that they have all the necessary tools to earn a living and handhold them till loan repayment is done.
Last year, the company was one of 50 climate innovation startups, selected from over 600 applicants and over 60 countries as a part of the Third Derivative's inaugural cohort.
"Since traditional banks cannot finance auto rickshaw drivers, they are dependent on NBFCs and alternative financiers, which are very expensive. The financing that is available to light vehicle drivers has an extremely high down payment, making receiving a loan not feasible for many drivers. This is the problem Three Wheels United is addressing," the company shared with The Logical Indian.
"We provide loans that cover upto 100 per cent of the vehicle cost at affordable interest rates better than what most other NBFCs are providing. We directly finance drivers at a fair interest rate covering up to 100 per cent of the cost of the vehicle without asking for any collateral," the company said.
As per a 2018 report published in The International Journal of Scientific and Engineering Research, auto-rickshaws in Bengaluru contributed to 0.45 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, 1,445 tonnes of nitrogen oxide, and 164 tonnes of particulate matter 10.
Financed Over 3000 Auto Rickshaws Till Now
Till now, Three Wheels United has worked with over 30,000 drivers offering them various products and services, financed more than 3000 auto rickshaws that resulted in a reduction of 22,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, and generated an extra $20 million income for the drivers. The company has also introduced a buy-back program in association with large manufacturers to scrap auto-rickshaws older than 10 years. In addition, it has financed over 100 EV vehicles and has closed a deal for the next 500 vehicles over the next two months.
"As most of the drivers don't have a saving habit, TWU is able to tap into their finances when they actually make money and in a way that it's aligned with their lifestyle," the company said.
Three Wheels United was seeded with the help and support of a program funded by the European Commission. They have raised $1 million equity from various investors including South British Capital, Techstars, and angel investors. They are also receiving support from Microsoft. Recently, the platform was selected for Third Derivative's inaugural cohort of climate innovation startups. Three Wheels is one among the 50 climate innovation startups, selected from more than 600 applicants across more than countries.