Madhuri belongs to a family of basket weavers. Her parents were basket weavers and she and her mother- and sisters-in-law are basket weavers. Madhuri makes about 45-55 baskets per month, usually from bamboo, hard grasses, and cane, and sells them to merchants for 20 rupees (30 cents US) each. These are utility baskets, intended for everyday uses.

The family owns a small plot of land (about one-third of an acre), but the soil is rather infertile. Whereas most farmers in the area can harvest a crop of rice followed by a crop of wheat, Madhuri’s land only yields one crop of rice per year. Thus, basket weaving is the household’s main source of income.

Madhuri grew up in a small family in a village not far from where she lives now. Her mother died when she was a child, leaving her father (who died seven years ago) to raise her and her younger sister. She attended school until grade 5. Now she, her husband, and three children live with her mother-in-law, brother-in-law and his family, and sister-in-law. The house has two rooms with mud walls and thatched roofing, as well as a long covered veranda made from brick.

The home is connected to the utility grid, but like for so many others, the timing of electricity is erratic and there is rarely power available in the evenings. Thus, the family relies primarily on kerosene lamps to provide light, using about 2.5 liters each month.

Madhuri’s family participated in the Hans Free Electric™ pilot study, and reported that light provided by the bike allowed them to continue their basket weaving into the evening—increasing their income. Madhuri and her husband do most of the pedaling, while her mother-in-law pitches in occasionally. When the bike first arrived, the neighbors, intrigued by the novelty, would come over to pedal for fun. After a while, however, Madhuri found the pedaling to be a bit more difficult than she anticipated. Her legs began to ache and the effort required was more than she could muster. In fact, hers was some of the feedback that led to the development of the single-flywheel consumer version of the Hans Free Electric™ bike, which is smaller, less expensive, and easier to operate than the two-flywheel commercial version deployed for the pilot.

What we learned from Madhuri’s story, and from many others, was the very purpose of the Hans Free Electric™ pilot—to hear first-hand accounts from actual users of the bike, and then to make improvements to its usefulness based on their real-life experiences.