24 February, 2006

in praise of mopeds and mobiles

Two of the most ubiquitous and derided devices in much of developing Asia are the cell phone and the moped.  The former due to a lack of etiquette and the latter because they tend to be driven on pedestrian thoroughfares. While AsiaPundit will be forever annoyed by people who stare at their phones instead of answering them, and at the scooters that always honk at him on the sidewalks of Shanghai, he will agree with Neelakantan that the two have empowered millions of new entrepreneurs.: 

Moped2The moped is a much derided vehicle, at least on Indian roads. It is slow on the highways, a pain in traffic because it runs circles around other vehicles far more than a bike or a scooter and an irritation when it breaks down at signals. Some of these contraptions also have a pedal option, which is used by its owners to get out a signal at 3 km/h, when their contraption fails to start. But, it also has a role to play in our economy. Down South, where TVS motor rules the roost, the moped is popular. It is not popular with college students (guys prefer bikes, girls prefer variomatics), but it popular with another segment. The milk delivery man, postmen, the newspaper delivery men, even the scrap traders (as pictured above) who I call micro entrepreneurs. These were the guys who used a bicycle once upon a time and have now upgraded to mopeds.

Mopeds are dirt cheap and give amazing value for money for a litre of petrol. (A 100 cc bike gives upwards of 80 km to a litre, these 50 and 70 something cc vehicles can give much more. It is not uncommon some of these things being filled with petrol for 25 rupees (half a litre) or less. I have seen a moped being filled for 10 rupees. These things are not fast, but they are rugged and remove the dependence on public transport for their owners. The moped is as functional a vehicle as it can get, since their owners really dont care for how a moped looks.

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by @ 7:47 pm. Filed under India, Asia, East Asia, Economy, South Asia

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