SMV Wheels was established in April of 2010 to empower rickshaw drivers to own their own rickshaw in about one year by creating a weekly payment model that works toward eventual ownership. The cycle rickshaws sold by SMV have been re-engineered to be technically superior to rickshaws on the market and physically less demanding for drivers to pull.
Cycle rickshaw drivers are one of urban India's most marginalized communities. Most are rural migrants who have either permanently moved to the city or come to the city for three months twice a year to supplement their farming incomes. The work is attractive as it does not require any training, there is no capital outlay for the new driver, and the income is immediate. Over 45% of drivers are illiterate; they are often homeless or living in slums and have five dependants on average. Cycle rickshaw drivers suffer a higher incidence of alcohol and substance abuse. This is partly a function of the drudgery of the work but sadly is also sometimes encouraged by fleet owners seeking to create dependence.
SMV Wheels addresses underlying causes of poverty through asset-based entrepreneurship development. SMV Wheels sells cycle rickshaws and offer customers an extended payment period along with vocational support. SMV recruits drivers, undertakes credit checks, and delivers the rickshaw to customers who then operate the vehicle and make it their own. SMV then collects payments over a 52 week period. Customers pay Rs300 per week, roughly one day of income. Calculated on a daily basis, SMV charges Rs43 versus the fleet owners who charge Rs40 for daily rental but without any chance of ownership.
SMV provides licenses to the drivers, something that is not available to them now as the law requires you to own the rickshaw in order to have one. This significantly enhances their quality of life as it reduces the risk of police harassment. SMV also provides life, disability, accident, and theft insurance for the rickshaw and rickshaw driver.
SMV Wheels was the winner of the Sankalp Award for Social Enterprise in 2011, was awarded prize money by First Light Village Capital 2011, won first-runner-up at the India School of Business Idyea Competition 2011, and was honoured as an Echoing Green Semi-Finalist 2012. The company was also featured in the 1 September 2012 Independence Day issue of Outlook Business Magazine as one of Twenty-four Good Businesses.