Cedrick Tandong’s Three Wheels United helps auto drivers switch to sustainable vehicles


The Bengaluru-based start-up has worked with over 30,000 drivers and financed 3000-plus rickshaws

Cedrick Tandong, born and raised in Cameroon, first visited India as a management consultant in 2008. He, then, aspired to start a company that caters to the lower and middle classes. He had a bunch of ideas; one of them involved auto-rickshaws.

“When I was in Bengaluru, auto-rickshaw drivers constantly overcharged me. It seemed like they were taking advantage of me. When I decided to investigate why they did that, I found that most of them had rental vehicles and didn’t have control over their earnings.”

Cedrick decided what he wanted to work on. With Ramesh Prabhu, he started Three Wheels United (TWU), a social enterprise that helps drivers purchase their vehicle and replace their two-stroke auto-rickshaw with the more fuel-efficient four-stroke LPG ones or electric vehicle.

“Apart from solving the financial problems of the auto-rickshaw drivers, we are also trying to reduce the climate impact due to emissions from vehicles,” says Cedrick.

According to The International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research report (published in May 2018), 120,018 auto-rickshaws in Bengaluru amounted to 0.45 million tonnes of CO2, 1,445 tonnes of nitrogen oxide and 164 tonnes of particulate matter 10.

Karnataka’s Transport Department planned to phase out two-stroke rickshaws by April 2018. The government even allocated a ₹ 30 crore budget for the same. However, two-stroke vehicles continue to ply in Bengaluru and other parts of the state.

Financial difficulty is one of the main reasons for the drivers’ reluctance to replace their vehicles, says Cedrick. “They live on a weekly and monthly basis. And, this where we come in. We finance vehicles at a 23% interest rate, which is lesser compared to non-banking financial institutions. It covers the total cost of the vehicle. We also enable them to pay on a daily or weekly basis.”

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The organisation has worked with over 30,000 drivers, financing 3000-plus rickshaws. Cedrick claims TWU has helped reduce 22,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. He aims to finance over 100,000 vehicles in India by 2024. “We are already working with drivers in Karnataka’s Tier-2 cities and from other States. So, we hope to see a large scale shift to electric vehicles soon,” he says.

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Sagar Biswas

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