For anyone commuting in Chennai, the buzz of autorickshaws is a common sight. Research shows that while the ownership of private vehicles has grown 108 per cent in the last one decade, the dependency on autorickshaws has not come down. Autorickshaw drivers in Chennai are notorious for daylight robbery, charging exorbitant fares and reckless driving. In fact, the market for auto permits is liberalised, thus helping distorted market mechanisms.

To understand and evaluate the auto sector, Civitas Consultancies Private Limited is conducting the Chennai Auto Project, an initiative of City Connect, Chennai. The Study aims to understand the nature of autorickshaw drivers and the ecosystem of autorickshaws – what influences their symbiotic relationships, market demand and supply, and so on.

The objectives of the Study are to understand an autorickshaw driver’s behaviour in Chennai, to study the impact on the city’s streets of de-licensing of the permit system, to find various parameters that influence auto fares in Chennai, to elucidate supply chain management and various stakeholders in the business, to study various competitions faced by the autorickshaws (call taxis, for example), and to compile various policies and societal factors that have led to distorted pricing.

The Study covers 18 areas in Chennai, including Anna Nagar, T Nagar, Guindy, Thiruvanmiyur, Tambaram, Koymabedu, Chennai Central, Anna Square, Mylapore, Besant Nagar, Parrys, Egmore, Nungambakkam, Vadapalani, Red Hills and Mount Road.

A sample of 500 autorickshaw drivers and 200 passengers is being taken. The Study also includes meetings with government officials of concerned departments, including the RTO, Traffic Police, Chennai Corporation and the CMDA. An assessment of pricing in the previous decade and market calculations are being made to ascertain and evaluate the present autorickshaw fares. Meetings with bank officials, moneylenders, government agencies that finance auto rickshaws, and auto unions and their welfare departments are also being conducted.

Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, is the fourth largest metropolitan city in India and has grown rapidly in recent years. The city area of 172 sq km hosts five million people. The Chennai Metropolitan Area (CMA) is 10 times that of Chennai city and is estimated to touch a population of 10 million by 2011.