Indian techie on autorickshaw cruise control in San Francisco

Vivek Bhaskaran, CEO of QuestionPro , drives an ‘imported’ auto-rickshaw in San Francisco . It’s a great conversation starter


QuestionPro CEO Vivek Bhaskaran  says, “I am into motor vehicles anyway and have been especially fascinated with autos.”
QuestionPro CEO Vivek Bhaskaran says, “I am into motor vehicles anyway and have been especially fascinated with autos.”

Bengaluru: Vivek Bhaskaran always wanted to drive an autorickshaw. “I am into motor vehicles anyway and have been especially fascinated with autos,” he laughed over a Skype call from San Francisco, where the chief executive officer of QuestionPro, a web-based research technology company, works and lives.

So he decided to get two shipped across.

“We have an office in Pune, so I called up the people there and asked them to send two,” he said.

At first, the dealership wouldn’t sell the vehicles. “We had to clarify that it would be used for private use and not for commercial purposes,” he said.

Once they did, it was put on a container and shipped across to the Bay Area, “We had no idea what we were hoping really. We thought we would get it and then figure it out.

Once the auto reached the port, another problem arose. No one knew what it was. So, it had to be certified. The paperwork took us nearly 2-3 months. We had to wait for that long to get it done before the auto could leave port,” he said, adding that he had it registered as a three-wheeled motorcycle.

“Everyone on board has to wear a helmet when we ride it here,” he grinned. “There are 3-4 helmets on board all the time.”

Then he decided to put his company’s logo on it and effectively make it a company vehicle. “Employees have an amazing time—I ride it sometimes to office and we all go for coffee in the autorickshaw,” he said.

In the melting-pot of the Bay Area, the autorickshaw proves to be an emulsifier of sorts drawing people of various sorts to it, “It is a great conversation starter. The minute someone sees it there is a big smile on their face because it looks so out of place here,” said Bhaskaran, adding that this inevitably leads to people walking over to take pictures or ask about its origins and history.

Or simply hitching a ride.

“It is a very versatile vehicle and people can easily jump in and out of it,” said Bhaskaran, adding that it is also a highly functional vehicle that can also manoeuvre smaller lanes and transport people really easily.

And yes, hopping on one can be a lot of fun. Like riding atop a motorcycle you get that same feel of fresh air and freedom, said Bhaskaran, adding that people who only ride cars rarely experience that.

He intends to take his autorickshaw along for events and conferences in the Bay Area and offer people rides on it—he has already taken it with him to Dreamforce 2016, “I think that the world is truly flat and there are no boundaries,” he said, adding that this is the storyline an autorickshaw trundling down the lanes of San Francisco nurtures, “After all, from a tech and software perspective, we are selling our platform to everyone in the world”.

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