Tuks-Tuks Are Big Business In South Africa


Manufactured in India and assembled in South Africa – the Tuk-Tuk is becoming a common sight puttering about Johannesburg’s city streets…

With increased urbanization, population growth, people are looking for a safer and cheaper means to travel short distances…therefore the Tuk-Tuk just makes so much sense.

With only three wheels and its diminutive frame, the Tuk-Tuk can maneuver between traffic, navigate alleyways and narrow streets – providing door-to-door and hassle-free transport. Tuk-Tuk services are particularly popular and practical for residents living in the outskirt suburbs of the city, who need to move from Point A to Point B: where their destination is too close to catch a taxi and too far to walk. Tuk-Tuks thereby serve as a pragmatic solution for both students and the elderly. Because they travel within a 5km to 10km radius, besides suburb streets, you will predominantly find Tuk-Tuks buzzing around hospitals, schools, clinics, bars, nightclubs, restaurants, train and bus terminals and local shopping centres. Private companies in the Johannesburg CBD often have an overflow parking space for their staff – which may be an impractical distance to walk to the company’s premises. Company owned Tuk-Tuks would then ferry employees to-and-fro – particularly when it rains or when employees leave the building late at night. Besides revenues generated from Taxi fare, owners can offer their Tuk-Tuks as a medium for mobile branding and advertising. Shesha Tuks, a company who hire out Tuk-Tuks, their enterprising business model generates advertising revenue from their branding partners – like Old Mutual. Consequently, Tuk-Tuks have played an instrumental role in creating employment in previously disadvantaged areas.

However, according to Shesha Tuks, they have experienced a great deal of resistance from local independent meter-taxi drivers. Who see Tuk-Tuk services as a threat to their business, and occasionally have resorted to intimidation tactics and assault on a handful of Tuk-Tuk drivers. Tuk-Tuks cater to a different demographic along a different geographical spectrum. Nevertheless, this is of little consequence as the demand for Tuk-Tuks has grown exponentially, Vespamania, a Tuk-Tuk dealership, sells up to sixty brand new Tuk-Tuks a month; this overwhelming demand has created a large market for newer generation models – so first time buyers need not rely on the second-hand market. Tuk-Tuks sell for as little as R25000+. The most popular derivative is the 6 + 1, (six passengers and one driver) model. It has an eight-litre petrol tank, that consumes 2.3L/100km of fuel, a four speed manual gearbox and can reach a top speed of 70km/h. The flagship 6 + 1 model will set you back R63 650, and comes with a standard two year/unlimited mileage warranty – there is not a business or franchise you could buy for that amount of money. The Tuk-Tuk is quintessentially a business on three wheels.


By Dean Joseph