A sunshine yellow auto sputters past the bylanes of Adyar. Written across the back, in bold white letters is: Work until you no longer have to introduce yourself. It is a message that G Annadurai, the owner of the auto, takes seriously; so not surprisingly, at the age of 38, he is already a local celebrity with global appeal. A technology enthusiast, he recently attended the Dubai Expo 2020 to learn about the latest developments in the field.
After Class XII, Annadurai waited tables at a cafeteria before moving on to his current profession in December 2010. Despite not being able to study further, his penchant for learning stayed. His WiFi-enabled auto is lined with newspapers and magazines, and the passenger seat is equipped with tablets, a laptop and even a television. “Everything is complimentary for my customers. I want them to read and be informed,” says Annadurai, who says he enjoys reading in his free time and is currently reading 42 Mondays.
Discussing his visit to the Dubai Expo, he says since customer needs keep changing, it is good to be updated on technology that can help address those needs. As an example, he pulls out a white futuristic-looking device, introducing it with an air of showmanship: “AWS Deep Lens… It helps understand sign language so I know what my hearing-and speech-impaired customers are saying.”
Annadurai makes an effort to acquire the latest gadgets for his clients, be it the iPad, a Samsung tablet, or solar-powered headphones. He just bought the iPhone 13 from Dubai. “Technology is updating every year: if you do not keep up, you are outdated,” he grins. He adds, however, that what gives him the greatest joy is when children from the slums get to browse on his latest MacBook Pro.
Annadurai says 50% of his clients reach out for the iPad Pro, 15% use the Mac Book Pro, and 25% read the magazines and newspapers. “I get six newspapers in the morning and two in the evening, and I have subscribed to 35-40 magazines. These span segments such as business, travel, lifestyle, fashion and current affairs, in English and Tamil. Earlier I had newspapers and magazines in Bengali, Odiya, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu. But there weren’t too many takers.”
In addition, Annadurai also features one book a month. This month it is 42 Mondays. In the past, book of the month featured Rich Dad, Poor Dad, A Brief History Of Time among others.
G Annadurai’s auto features tablets, a laptop, magazines, newspapers, a mini fridge and a snack rack
| Photo Credit: K. Pichumani
The auto also features a red mini fridge filled with chilled coconut water, as well as a snack rack packed with chocolates and biscuits, all free for customers .
Explaining why he puts so much work into outfitting his auto, he says, “People are so stressed nowadays. I want them to relax.” Holding up two Rubik’s cubes, he grins, “If you can solve these, you get a prize.” He hosts a monthly quiz. He frames the questions himself. Sample this: The headquarter of ESCAP (Economic and Social Commission for Asia) is located where? After a lucky draw, one winner gets a cash prize of ₹1,000.
Annadurai says he spends ₹18,000 each month on these frills and subscriptions. Which brings us to the question: How much does he earn per month? “Pre-pandemic it was upwards of one lakh and now it is down to ₹60,000-65,000 as the bulk of my clientele from the IT corridor are working from home and international tourists haven’t come in the last two years,” he says, adding that he goes by the Government set rates for fares.
Now, he manages 30 to 40 customers in a day. But business will bounce back, he says optimistically, adding, “That is when I have more plans to incorporate. Till then the aim is to stay afloat.” But despite the “collapse in business”, he continues to offer free services to teachers, doctors, nurses and sanitisation workers.