THE TUK-TUK or AUTORICKSHAWS. THE ORIGINS

Did you know that Tuk-Tuks got their name due to the first models´ engine sound ~ tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk? In today´s article, I would like to share with you the iconic yellow-green Indian Tuk Tuks or also called locally The Indian Helicopter. Technically speaking, they are called the autorickshaws.

Before moving into India, that let us see what a Tuk-Tuk really is! A Tuk-Tuk does normally have three wheels and it is a common way of urban transport for short distances, ensuring a cheap and a fast-urban service for passengers. The concept of these vehicles is ideal for hire and for private use for entire days. It is commonly used around the world, but more especially for those with tropical or subtropical countries, more often in developing countries.

The Tuk-Tuk has the same concept everywhere, counting with similar characteristics. Indeed, I did have the chance to see some other countries with Tuk Tuks, however, due to some local and cultural peculiarities, in today´s article I would like to focus on the Indian Helicopter, most of them designed and manufactured by Bajaj Auto Limited. This brand is the most popular brand that started in 1944 importing and selling motorbikes in India and became the leading company in selling Tuk-Tuks for both the Indian market and export. Other important rickshaw manufacturers are Kumar Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra and Piaggio Ape.

Have you ever visited India? If you have, I am convinced the following picture will bring you great memories.

Tuk-Tuks are the most popular way of transport in India in all cities. For example, there are over 50,000 Indian helicopters in New Delhi, powered by petrol, diesel, and LPG. In other important Indian cities like Bombay, Tuk-Tuks are not allowed in its city center.

The traffic situation in New Delhi is inefficient, noisy, polluting and sometimes smelly. Tuk Tuk is really convenient and probably the best and cheapest solution to reach the first place wherever you want to go!

TECHNICAL SPECS OF THE INDIAN HELICOPTERS

Since we are all engine-lovers, let us have a look under the bonnet to understand better the Indian helicopters:

THE TUK-TUK EXPERIENCE IN INDIA

If you want to go anywhere on an authentic Indian helicopter, the only thing you need to do is to raise your hand, as they are omnipresent, discuss with the driver where you would like to go, openly negotiate the price and last but not least enjoy the trip!

Even if you do not raise your hand to request the service of an Indian helicopter, it does not matter, Indian people will quickly identify you as a non-Indian person (even from a long distance) and will come to you immediately to make change your mind. However, despite of not need it right away, I can promise you that it does not matter since they will not listen to you at all – it is actually a very funny situation. You can use all the excuses you want:

“I do not need it, thank you very much”,

“My hotel is on the other side of the street and I will cross it walking”,

“I just arrived by Tuk-Tuk here, I don´t need it now”,

“I am waiting for a friend who is picking me up by a car”

“Sorry, I do not have any money”,

…Among other creative ones, you can try! It can even become a fun game! Instead, they will use the Indian strategy with tourists, which consists of following you with their ground helicopters for a few minutes trying to convince you with place-price monologues about the need of going somewhere else.

“Hey, my friend, for 300 INR I will bring you in India´s Arc de Triomphe or the Indian Parliament … Ok, let me offer you a special price of 200 INR. Ok, let me give you my latest price of… 150 INR. Tell me how much you offer? If you take it right now, the best price would be 100… Ok, Ok, listen, sir, It will just take 5 minutes and you will love the place. My last price is 50 INR!”.

THE SMART STRATEGIES OF THE INDIAN DRIVERS

Do not forget that Indian people are very customer-oriented, and they will put a lot of attention to you – as you are a foreigner. They will be really kind to you since the beginning, “Hey my friend, where are you going?”, “Hey sir, do you need a Tuk Tuk?”.

Indian people are said to be really curious so they would love to understand the most about you. You must be aware that information like your country, job position, presence, way of talking and hotel where you are hosted, etc, will give them a better picture about your economic situation, serving them as the great base to come up with the “right” offer, based on your own cheap-expensive expectations. Some of the questions you might get are:

“Where are you from?”

“What´s your name?”

 “How old are you?”

“When did you arrive?”

“When are you leaving?”

“What do you do?”

“Are you married? Do you have sons?”

“How many brothers and sisters do you have?”

“Which hotel are you hosted in?”

“Would you like me to pick you up in your hotel tomorrow?”

Indian people are generally very intelligent and, as said, very customer-oriented. India is receiving more and more tourists every year, over 10 million tourists in last 2018, having increased its tourist rate by 5 in the last 5-6 years. Therefore, they have become quite experienced in dealing with tourists. They have learned both the best way to make a smile in your face and how to earn your trust.

First of all, they will try to understand where you are from. That might be quite obvious in some cases (physical factors, accent or way of being) and as soon as they have understood that, there are high probabilities that the driver can speak your language. In many cases, they will speak English, as well as the languages of the average European tourist: Spanish, French, Italian, German.

Why are they learning languages? There is, of course, a reason of communication for those tourists who cannot speak English, but there is also a psychological factor since Indian people understand that the more common points are between two certain persons, the more trust is shared and the more chances to somehow persuade you.

Being ironic, I would say that it was quite surprising to see that all the Tuk-Tuk drivers in New Delhi did have brothers in Zaragoza since several years ago!! Further, how much they did like the football team of your preference. If you support Real Madrid, they will not like its major rival and the wrong way around. These admirable commercial techniques are very popular among Indian people when negotiating with them the price of a ride or any other topic that can be negotiated. They really like getting into negotiations.

At this point, you will understand that the more they talk about their deep and “disinterested” love for your country, the worse negotiator you will become when discussing the price to give you a ride. Psychologically speaking, somehow you will feel less prone to negotiation if that person is showing you his love for your country, for your language and your football team.

You will notice that – even if you have already negotiated the price and you are already heading somewhere – there is a meter inside, of mandatory usage and regulated by the Government of India. Nevertheless, I would say that is just for the local people, but they will never use it if you are a foreigner – even if you request it instead of negotiating a price. In such a case, they might probably ask you to find another Indian helicopter.

Either you are onboarding or from outside, you will see how drivers – or better said, you will hear –are constantly playing their loud horns, with no reason. It seems like a part of their culture and they do not actually seem to be angry while driving. In Europe however, you will just see drivers using their horns if there is a possibility of an accident and to punish a driver for a bad maneuver, truth be said, normally quite annoyed.

THE TUK-TUK WAR

As mentioned before, Indian helicopters are omnipresent, and you can find them everywhere in New Delhi, driving relatively fast and looking around to find the next passenger. Other places where it is typical to find them waiting for passengers is at the main entrance and surroundings of public places like The Red Fort, Qutab Minar, Humayun Tomb, etc.

As soon as you have finished your visit of the great public places and monuments, there will be a pack of Tuk-Tuk drivers approaching you, competing each other and offering you their ground helicopters at the same time.

It is also very common to see the synergies strategies that Tuk-Tuk drivers do have. It is very often during the negotiations that they come up with a lower price with the condition of stopping in a place before arriving in your destination – this is also common in Thailand. Basically, these places are typically tourist offices, jewelry shops, and fashion houses. You do not need to buy anything, but just getting in the shop and walk around the place for a while, show interest in some of the articles and then go. Of course, if you are interested in something, you can go ahead and buy it, but I will warn you to take care because these places will try to charge much more, added to the fact that the opportunities to negotiate will be much lower since they are more or less high level.

It seems obvious to think that the owners of these fantastic shops give a commission to all the Tuk-Tuk drivers to bring foreigners in their shops. This is the reason why one of my drivers did not wait for me out of the shop – I understood why I did get a so cheap price, as the driver was actually more interested in that fee, rather than bringing me to my final destination and get paid.

Before closing this article, I would love to share with you a good video that I found on Youtube about how a Tuk-Tuk ride would look like in New Delhi. I am convinced you will get some insights about the tuk-tuk itself, the traffic conditions and the how they drive in India! It is, of course, all an adventure! Can you hear everyone playing the horn?

This is all for today, I hope you have enjoyed today´s article. Please, as always, it would be a great pleasure to hear from your comments, opinions, questions and/or any other suggestion you would like to make. Similarly, as you might have used already a Tuk-Tuk, it would be interesting to hear about your stories, I am sure you do have something curious or funny to share with us! Looking forward to hearing from you soon! 😊

Juan Carlos Hoyos Saez Administrator
Passionate about Cars, Driving and Business. My objective is to inspire more and more car lovers. Racing, Kickboxing, traveling, and healthy life. Sub-project leader as a Material Cost/Project Controller, Daimler Trucks Asia (Tokyo, Japan).
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4 Comments

ES · 26 May, 2019 at 8:57 AM

Wow, that is a great piece of information you cannot find on any tour guide books! I though it was quite fun because you touched upon not only the topic of technological aspect of tuk-tuk, but also Indian drivers’ service!

Thanks for the fun article!

    Juan Carlos Hoyos Saez · 26 May, 2019 at 10:10 AM

    Thanks a lot for your great feedback ES!
    Definitely, you understood the essence of this article.
    Looking forward to hearing from you again ^^
    Charlie

Imran Mehmet · 28 May, 2019 at 6:09 AM

Strongly recommend my friend Charlie’s blog posts to who are interested in automotive industry and who are looking for interesting facts about this industry! 🙂

    Juan Carlos Hoyos Saez · 28 May, 2019 at 8:58 PM

    Hey Imran! It is a pleasure to get such a great feedback!
    Thanks a lot man and looking forward to seeing you more often around!

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