By Muhammad Luqman
A Pakistani automobile company has been able to export traditional rickshaws to the quality conscious market of Japan. These tastefully decorated colourful three-wheelers are now found plying on the roads of Tokyo.
“ Japan also imports Indian rickshaws but these are not allowed to ply on the capital roads. It is Pakistani rickshaws allowed to move on the roads of this cosmopolitan city,” says jubilant Muhammad Ali Hameed, the director marketing of the Sazgar Autos, the company that claims to introduce many firsts in Pakistan’s nascent three- wheeler industry.
Pakistan used to import all the three wheelers before the turn of the 20th century. But in the early years of 21st century, dozens of rickshaw and motorcycle manufacturing firms mushroomed in this South Asian country due to liberal automobile policy introduced during the regime of military ruler General Pervez Musharraf. The local production has helped bring down the cost and the price of the three wheelers simultaneously.
Pakistan has been exporting rickshaws to Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and some African countries for several years but the export to Japan is a recent phenomenon.
The rickshaws’ small size makes them perfect for commuting in the narrow streets of Japanese cities especially Tokyo and are used by citizen’s there for travelling short distances.
“ Our rickshaws are fit Japan’s high road safety standards; We are planning to make exports to other East Asian nations,” says Ali Hameed.
The rickshaws fitted with 4 stroke CNG fired engines have a maximum speed of 50 kilometres per hour.
For years, Pakistan has been importing automobiles from Japan and Toyota, Honda, Suzuki have become household names in the country. But now it is the turn of Pakistani rickshaw to become a household name in Japan.
In Pakistan, over 50 automobile factories produce over 150,000 rickshaws but 90 percent of the market is held by just 7 companies. Of these 4 are based in Lahore, 2 in Karachi and one in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. These companies make a total export of just 2000 units, mainly to less quality conscious countries of Africa.
“ We are planning to diversify the export destinations with more focus on the developed nations. What we need is the support from the government,” Ali Hameed says.