Piaggio to market Indian three-wheelers to SA
Friday, 28 March 2003, 08:00 Hrs
JOHANNESBURG: Auto-rickshaws, or three-wheelers that are the most common form of transport for millions in India, may soon be a familiar sight in South Africa if efforts by Piaggio Vehicles succeed. Ravi Chopra, managing director of Piaggio, told IANS that he was meeting a number of South African players in a bid to convince them of the value of the three-wheeler as a cost-effective transport means for both passengers and goods. "In India three-wheelers are a very major means of transportation, especially for the poor man in terms of passengers, but also as a very cost-effective solution in terms of transport of cargo and material," Chopra said. "As a company, Piaggio has about 50 percent of the Indian market, and also exports to 15 destinations around the world, with South Africa being a potential market that we have identified. "We are seeing if we can create a distribution arrangement in South Africa for providing them with the same transport solutions." Chopra said the success of the three-wheelers was built on the ability of his company to offer customized solutions to importers of the vehicles. "If you want to transport cooking gas cylinders, we give you solutions; if you want to have ice-cream on wheels, we give you the solution; likewise for mobile shops or anything else. "We provide the vehicles which can take the product from the warehouse to the retail outlets. "Unfortunately, nobody has yet made a breakthrough in South Africa, because nobody has visualized that the potential is high, although there is no three-wheeler (in this market). "We intend to explore the possibility of understanding what are the rules and regulations in this country, so that we are able to abide by those rules, and bring in the vehicles." Chopra said once a distribution channel had been set up in South Africa, local production could also be considered. He said there had been a positive approach to the idea from people he had met here. "We had an excellent meeting with Wiseman Nkulu, economic adviser to President Thabo Mbeki, through whom we got to understand the priorities and the economic focus of South Africa in terms of building up the infrastructure. "The consequence of developing such infrastructure is more and better roads and communications, automatically leading to more need for transportation of cargo and cost-effective solutions, and this is what we are going to provide." Chopra said members of the National African Federation Chambers of Commerce had shown a lot of interest. "I'm upbeat. In fact, I'm coming here again next month to attend the Commonwealth Business Council and the Pan-African summit on April 7, where I am going to be a speaker and promote the possibility of using the three-wheelers as a cost-effective means of transportation of men and material." Chopra said Piaggio was already exporting to Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda. "We have just executed an order for 2,500 vehicles in Nigeria. They got a lot of World Bank aid. Now if we want to eradicate unemployment, if you want to alleviate the level of poverty, just like we have in India, these vehicles become a good source, because they come at low cost, they can be financed, and they create an opportunity for earning."