Can anyone imagine an Indian road without auto-rickshaws? These hunched three-wheelers are perfect for beetling through narrow lanes and angling around potholes. And, if we live by the Indian Standard Time (IST), they can even warp space to help us keep our doctors’ and work appointments. Despite the magic they perform every day, they are widely disliked for the exorbitant rates they charge. Everyone has at least one story to tell about a rapacious auto driver.
Cedrick Tandong, founder of Three Wheels United (TWU), has been in India for more than a decade now and he too has had auto drivers overcharging him. Instead of berating the drivers, Tandong began conversing with them, to understand their side of the story. He has always held a soft corner for the underdog.
He first worked in India, when he came down for a project at TCS, as a business analyst for the FMCG sector in France. Even in these early days, he knew that he wanted to do more. “I realised that while I was being entrepreneurial in my work, I was not adding any value to my immediate or extended community,” he says.
Growing up in Cameroon, Africa, where a larg