Women Cabbies Driving Away to Glory
Women taxi drivers!! Who would have pictured them even in the wildest of dreams? But this is no less than a reality on the streets of Mumbai. An all-women fleet of cabbies, clad in pink salwar-kameez, have taken the entire country by surprise on account of being one of its kind, & the first ever!! They have ventured into an all-male-dominated space and are going great guns!
Priyadarshini Taxi Service was one of the first cab service providers in the city, run and managed wholly by women. Susieben Shah, the founder has transformed her out-of-the-box concept into a bold statement, and what is even more inspiring is that most of the women in her cab-service come from lower middle-class backgrounds. They have now become proud earners for their family, earning approximately between Rs.10,000-Rs12,000 a month. “We are not just a taxi service, we are also doing social service for women through our scheme and are registered as an NGO,'' she says. It was her bold vision that dared to think of empowering women beyond the conventional ways of making "achar" (pickle) or sewing. This, she envisaged, will not only boost their self-confidence but also increase their prestige in the eyes of their family and the society. Her team currently comprises of 20 women cabbies, who are highly enthusiastic about their job, and take pride in it. It has altered the commonly-held belief that woman are poor drivers. An equally fascinating thing about this enterprise is that apart from the cab fleet, the office staff, the director, the shareholders, and the call center personnel – the entire show is run by women. This again negates the myth that women cannot work in coordination and harmony.
The women are interviewed, chosen and given three-month training before being appointed. Their families are also interviewed to make sure that they support these women, who will have to be out on the roads of Mumbai for more than 10 to 12 hours a day. The training is not only related to driving, but covers other things as well to enable them to do their duty well, such as maintenance of the cars, first-aid skills, emergency-handling skills and self-defense techniques. A crash course on communication skills, basic accounting, etiquette, cleanliness, yoga and meditation is also given so as to equip them with better stress management abilities. This training session, funded by government grants ultimately prepares a team of confident women who set out on the roads, prepared to meet every challenge. They are also allowed to take their vehicle.
Mumbai has witnessed the zeal and gusto of these women since 2008, and since then, they have earned the repute of being the most women-friendly service in Mumbai. Women trust them for their safety and families for their comfort and friendliness. What’s better, these women have not reported of any untoward incident, even though their duty hours even extend upto the wee hours of the night. On the night shift, they pick up passengers from the airport way past midnight, but so far, no woman cabbie has complained of catcalls or adverse comments. On the contrary, they say they have received friendly treatment both from male taxi drivers as well as their customers.
Delhi also witnessed a similar women-only cab service in 2007, called For-She Travels and Logistics Pvt.Ltd., its managing director being Revathi Roy. The unique feature of this cab service is that it caters to only female passengers and children! It also has its own uniform – a blue tunic with pink chiffon scarves. Their cabs are designed with sketches of heritage monuments and the fare is the same as that of other AC cabs. The women-drivers are allowed to keep the tips, as Roy said in an interview.
Such services boast of improving the lives of not only the women, but also their families, who have an added financial source to count on. These women who once had to eke out a living, are now empowered enough to afford a better life and education for their children, thus translating their success into a positive impact on many lives.