Uber may have global ambitions, but the Mexican city of Guadalajara offers an example of how local resourcefulness can still hard to beat. By welding on extra features, including passenger seats, some Guadalajara entrepreneurs are turning electric rickshaws and scooters brought in from India and Italy into bike taxis that are giving Uber a run for its money.
Enhancing, or even assembling, ramshackle vehicles is nothing new in Mexico as anyone who has used a microbus in the capital will know. These buses and bike taxis, including many enhanced versions of the Italian scooter brand Piaggio, thrive in a country where millions can only afford cheap transport.
A rickshaw in Oaxaca, Mexico (2010) â€" Photo: Antti T. Nissinen
One seller in Zapopan, a western suburb of Guadalajara, told El Informador that a remodeled rickshaw can earn you 300 pesos ($16.50) a day, which can recoup the initial investment in just six months. Each one costs around 64,000 pesos ($3,500).
This mode of transport is not tightly regulated, and requires little paperwork for now; and while many avoid them for safety fears, they are already making some 46,000 trips a day in and around the city of some 1.5 million, reports El Informador, which is based in Guadalajara.
A salesman in Tlajomulco south of the city told the paper: "It's simple. If you buy an Uber, the car costs 160,000 pesos ($8,800). You have to pay for the application and rent the car out. The (motorized rickshaws) require so much less in startup costs, are three times more profitable ...and carry almost twice as many people as Uber."