On Autowalla Who Earns 13 Lakhs A Year, His Life Choices And Some Small Talk

Following is the conversation I had with an Autowalla in Bangalore. Usually, I choose to stay numb and get lost in the company of my music player during such rides. But at this particular instant, I gave my earphones a miss and got into conversation mode.

(The conversation was in Hindi but have translated it to English)

As I boarded the auto, the driver turned off the OLA device that was attached to his windshield.

Me (out of curiosity): Has signing up with OLA helped?

Autowalla: Not really. At most 3-4 extra rides in a day. But there is a big problem. What happens is that a customer makes a request for auto, say 1 km away. By the time I accept the request, dodge the traffic and reach the destination, it takes me 5-10 minutes, by which time the customer cancels the booking saying that I turned up late. It is a gross waste of my time and resources.

Me: Why don’t you get a cab and sign up? From what I have heard, they earn well. Also, there is the daily incentive of Rs.2000 on completing 15 rides in a day.

A: Sir, a cab makes sense for Bachelors. They can slog for 12-14 hours in a day and can manage to claim the incentive as well. Without the incentive even they earn anywhere between Rs 1200-1500. For a family man like myself, it is not really possible to put in such long hours. Moreover, purchasing a cab would be like becoming a slave of the company. They will help me pay 50% of the down payment and I will have to worry about paying the EMI every month. There will always be this loan at the back of my mind.

Riding the auto gives me greater flexibility. I leave my house at 5 in the morning and come back at 9 a.m. and have my breakfast. I again leave by 11 a.m. and am back home by 2 p.m. I have my lunch and afternoon nap. In the afternoon, the ride takers are anyways far and few. I then again leave in the evening, during the peak hours and am back home by 9-10 p.m. Tell me which other job would give me so much flexibility.

There was a smile on his face as he concluded his final sentence.

Me (amazed at his routine): If you don’t mind me asking, how much do you earn?

A: Around 35-40k.

The calculator in my head was in full swing now. Having worked in the analytics industry for a couple of years, number crunching was second nature to me.


Me: How much does an auto cost?

A: It costs around 1.8 lakhs. And if you add all the fitting etc. it comes close to 2 lakhs. So even if you buy on loan, you are able to pay it down and own the auto within a year. The same is not the case with a cab.

I just realised that I was speaking to a man who was a master of his trade and well versed with his numbers.

Me: Why don’t you multiply your income! Purchase a few autos and ask others to drive it for you on rental.

A: I am already doing it.

Me (getting more curious by the minute): How many autos do you own?

A: Apart from the one that I drive, 12.

For a moment, my jaw dropped onto the seat of the auto. My eyebrows almost touched the hairline. A moment of silence entailed.

Me: And what is the daily rental that you charge them?

A: Rs 200 per day.

200 per auto per day. If you multiply that by 12, that makes it Rs 2400 per day. And upon multiplying that by thirty, it becomes Rs 72,000 per month. On top of it, add the 35,000 that he makes driving his own auto, and the amount becomes Rs 1,07,000 per month. So he almost earns 13 lakhs per year.

I think the autowalla had sensed my amazement. And seeing me lost in thought, he continued.

A: I still use the 2009 model. I don’t give my auto to anyone. It is very precious to me. The new autos that I have purchased are 2014 and 2015 model. People often mock me saying that why do you still drive this ‘oldies’ auto. But this auto is very close to my heart. I think I earn enough to take care of my family.

There was a glint of satisfaction in his eyes that was visible in the rear view mirror.

Me: So what’s next in store for you?

A: I want to purchase a flat. I think this auto and everything else will come and go, but a house of my own will stay with me. I just want to be able to sit there one afternoon, with the satisfaction of knowing that it belongs to me.

In fact, I have already zeroed in on the flat. It is near the Electronic city (a locality in Bangalore). The registry is not yet complete but it will happen soon.

Me: You managed to save that much?

A: I have substantial saving. And the remaining I will generate by selling a few autos that I own.

My destination was just a minute away. However, he still managed to have one last say.

A: Sir, from my experience, I would like to share a thought. If you work with honesty, trust me, some way or the other, you will always manage to ensure that you are able to provide 3 meals a day to your family. In the longer run, dishonesty always gets back at you.

Point noted Sir!

And with that, I reached my destination, got off the auto and asked him the fare. He smiled at me and pointed at the meter. He truly practised what he preached. At least, in that moment he did.

Shobhit Agarwal

Archetypal average guy - decent in everything; exceptional in nothing!!