Developing Low-Cost Rickshaws

Project at-a-glance

Developing, manufacturing and testing an ergonomic, low-cost rickshaw (<$200) to serve the needs of rickshaws drivers in India for my capstone project at Olin College of Engineering; A/B testing and interviews conducted in Bharatpur, India.

[All photos taken by team in India during May-June 2013 and December-January 2014.]


Adopting the new rickshaw frame design would markedly drop the physical burden on the knees and hips of the 1 million+ rickshaw drivers in India and around the globe.


  • CAD drawings for manufacturer
  • Assembled rickshaws
  • A/B testing plan
  • Survey of rickshaw drivers
  • Interviews with rickshaw drivers


  • Solidworks

User Research

The men to the right are all rickshaw drivers at the national bird sanctuary of Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, India.

A lot of the research we had came from past team members and the information they had gathered; we also did a lot of secondary research to put together a picture of these rickshaw drivers' lives. Ultimately, visiting the park twice and being able to form connections with these men gave us invaluable insight into their motivations and dreams.


Manufacturing the new rickshaws


We worked with Hybird Bikes in Ludhiana, India to design and manufacture a new rickshaw with a new feature: a lower top tube. The team traveled to northern India to assemble one of the four rickshaws to gain an appreciation of work that goes into building a rickshaw.

[Celeste and I assemble a rickshaw with the help of a rickshaw assembler in May 2013.]


Conducting A/B Testing

Hybird Bikes shipped 4 of the new rickshaws to Bharatpur, where we conducted our A/B testing. In the picture to the right, you can see how the new frame (right) is significantly different for the old frame (left). During testing, the rickshaws drivers indicated a huge preference for the new design because it made getting on and off much simpler; however, they had reservations about the sturdiness of the frame and wanted long-term testing to determine that the rickshaw frame would not catastrophically break over the course of 10+ years.


Surveys and Interviews

An important part of the trip was gathering information and opinions from city rickshaw drivers. We learned that the vast majority of rickshaw drivers rent their rickshaws. This is for several reasons:

  • Purchasing a rickshaw, even a used one, is a significant expense for which most drivers cannot save.
  • Even for those who could save a lump sum of money, you need a safe space to park the rickshaw at night.
  • Rickshaw renter moguls will cover some repair costs, lessening the day-to-day financial burden on the drivers.

More interesting outcomes from this research included understanding what parts of the rickshaw are most likely to need repair (the tires) and how the drivers work out who gets the next customer.

[Team member Dakota and Professor Sawmill pictured conducting interviews.]


Funding the project

For the project to succeed, we worked with several organizations.

I would like to thank Dr. Khyati Mathur, DFO Keoladeo National Park Administration; Dr. Anjana Pant of WWF India; Gitanjiali Kanwar, director of Harike National Sanctuary for WWF; Abhishek Bhatnagar, manager of Keoladeo National Park for WWF; Dr. Swati Samvatsar, Lupin Foundation Director; Jainendra Singhal, Lupin Foundation Senior Project Manager; Baba and his assistant Maanpal, Keoladeo National Park tourist bicycle mechanics.