KPIT Sparkle Blogs
The total rural workforce in India comprises 21 million women and 63 million men. Out of this population, 55% prefer to walk or use a bicycle to reach work, but this decision does not stem from personal choice, it stems from a lack of accessibility to public transport, and not having the means to pay the price for distances beyond 10 km.
Even though one may not realize it, rural India is actually the backbone of the major metropolitans. The Skills Gap Report by the NSDC reported that around 119 million additional skilled workers will be needed by 24 sectors such as logistics, handloom and so on, by 2022. But because the cities of India are already bursting at the seams, a strong public transport system would be the need of the hour, to enable rural workers to travel long and short distances at an accessible rate. Without that, the rural workers would be hamstrung without being able to access the jobs that need them.
Of course, poor transport connectivity also impacts daily life in villages. This restricts the access of the rural population to medical facilities, education, and opportunities.
In this blog, we will look into some such solutions that have promising potential for connecting India's most rural areas.
Kinisi Electric Bicycles
Kinisi is a unit of the experimental township, Auroville in rural Tamil Nadu. They fall under the Center for Scientific Research. They saw that the muddy trails and lack of roads in the area and the surrounding villages were proving dangerous for two-wheelers to navigate, and so the Kinisi cycle was born. These are electric cycles which use the momentum built by pedaling to generate a push so that one can cover very long distances with minimal effort. They are also designed for the harshest weather conditions and the toughest terrains, making them ideal solutions for villages. They charge fast and are highly efficient as well.
Drones for blood transportation
Recently, an unmanned aerial vehicle, a UAV, successfully deployed a single unit of blood from a remote village to a primary health care center in Uttarakhand! The use of drones to transport blood is an innovative and effective way to reach remote and geographically difficult to access areas. The drone was created by an IIT Kanpur alumni and can carry 500 grams of blood in a single flight. It can also fly up to 50 kilometers on one charge! This could be a game changer for villages where access to the right medical facilities or treatment could prove fatal. So many people succumb to injury or lose their lives during childbirth on account of a lack of blood in case of transfusions. Consider how that situation could be remedied with accessible, simple, air transport?
Telangana and the 'electric tuk-tuk' revolution
Telangana has much of the resources and infrastructure it needs to lead the way for the electric vehicle revolution in India. This is why the startups in the state receive a fair share of the grants and funding from the government. In fact, Telangana based Gayam Motor Works Pvt Ltd are in such popular demand, that their clientele includes the likes of Amazon, Ikea, and Uber! The operational cost of an electric rickshaw is one-seventh that of a petrol rickshaw, which means that they are not just green but are also very lean and cost-efficient. When distributed widely, these electric tuk-tuks can transform the way villagers commute.
Enabling informal carpooling
The world offers inspiration for our problems too. For eg, rural America runs on Liberty, which is just like Lyft or Uber, but more focused on communities with transportation gaps. It's not just about rides, but about providing mobility as a service. Local partners are identified and engaged, and the rates set are very affordable. The strategy has worked so well that they were able to expend to 60 counties across the US.
While we may not have the infrastructure to set up fleets of vehicles in Indian villages, what could be set up is an informal carpooling system, one where car owners can connect with people in the area and carpool at a minimal cost. This provides an income for the vehicle owner and also enables people to travel at subsidized costs.
There's no doubt that rural India needs access to mobility, whether it's for long work commutes to neighboring cities, to visit relatives in a nearby village, or to drive better access to important facilities. More infrastructure may not be the best answer, because that brings its own set of cost and environmental challenges, so it's more about making our current systems more intelligent and cost-efficient.
The electric bikes for example that have made the sight of farmers zipping around quite a common sight in the region because they have the durability and adaptability of a cycle, with the energy of your average scooty! Even the humble homegrown electric tuk-tuk has massive potential beyond metropolitan cities.
These solutions are not just cost-efficient but are also green. When the huge population of rural India starts adopting these innovative alternative transport methods, it could be the signal for a transformation that could benefit us all.