The crowded, chaotic and bulging streets of Karachi now have a new member to share the road with – a ‘rik.’
Frustrated by seeing women being harassed on the streets and in door-less rickshaws by men on motorbikes, Mohsin Abbas came up with the idea of introducing a rickshaw service similar to phone-in cab services. Soon, ‘Call-a-Rik’ was in the works. Abbas, with his son-in-law, thought up a rickshaw service that would turn up at your doorstep and provide you with an experience similar to what you would expect in a plane ride.
Abbas’ ‘rik’ has doors, spacious seats, sliding windows, an LCD TV and headphones – all for 10 rupees per kilometre.
His wife, Rehana Moshin, who has inadvertently become the spokesperson for Call-a-Rik, describes the rickshaw as a mini-cab.
So far, the Call-a-Rik fleet comprises 27 rickshaws and Abbas plans to expand it to 72 rickshaws, in addition to topping them up with additional features.
Since providing security, especially to women and children, was Abbas’ main concern when he decided to build these rickshaws, the riks are tracked online through a GPS, which provides the dispatch office with the rik’s exact location every 10 seconds.
Soon, Abbas plans to add cameras in the rickshaw – which will send images to the headquarters every 15 seconds as well.
Along with security features, customer service is also emphasised in the Call-a-Rik offices – every customer receives an electronic receipt, via text message, to inform them that their rickshaw has been booked and estimated time of arrival.
Just like in the aviation industry, which is where Abbas finds his roots, the rik too has cancellation charges and similarly, rickshaw drivers are called ‘captains.’
Launched less than a month ago, these blue and white vehicles have taken off with a bang in Karachi. Rehana Mohsin says they have had to cancel on customers and have expanded the business hours to midnight.
The Abbas’s have had interested investors call in from Lahore and as far as Germany.
Other than security features, Abbas also hopes that the riks will provide a smoother travelling experience for clients by reducing pollution through closed doors and decreasing noise pollution with the headphones and in-house entertainment provided.
This way, when someone gets back home from a long day at work, they have the energy to spend time with their family, instead of recovering from a hot and noisy journey home, explains Abbas.
So far, the Call-a-Rik service charges a minimum of a 100 rupees, so it is economical for people travelling at least 10 kilometres, although the owners emphasise that calling a rik to your doorstep is free.
“I think we had good intentions when we started Call-a-Rik” says Rehana, and she attributes the service’s success to the same. – Video by Zehra Naqvi/Dawn.com, reported by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com