Millennium Post

In driver’s seat

In an attempt to meet the increasing demand for women and their travel safety across the country, various cab service companies in India decided to introduce “women-driven-cabs” as a part of their safety initiative. Olacabs as a part of their initiative launched a “by women, for women” line of taxis in 2015. Cab driving as a profession has not always been the first choice of job that a woman thinks of, but women like Veerath Bharathi (UBER) and Pinky (OLA) saw it differently.

Meanwhile, both Ola and Uber, the leading cab service companies strongly believes that women constitute 50 per cent of our society and deserve equal share of opportunity and can contribute in shaping the country’s progress. At the time when the country is talking about Skill India, Make in India, and various initiatives to lead the country towards achieving our growth targets, it is important that opportunities for women must be in tandem.

 To our surprise, there are several cab services that work towards empowering both the cab driver and the passenger by giving several women commuters the option of a woman driver. To our surprise, the Delhi NCR region itself has four cab operators which offer women only services- Vira, Priyadarshini, G-cabs and Sakha, however, people still tend to resort to services like Ola and Uber. 

According to a report published in leading English daily, the same report answers the question as to why, despite the existence of several all-women cab services, women have to avail other services despite knowing the risks involved. “While millions of dollars have been pumped in by investors like Japan’s Softbank into new-age cab aggregators like Ola, the women-only cab companies have found it tough going due to lack of funding” the report reads.

 While the concept of women drivers is not new, in India women breached the conventional society outlook when they took up cab driving as a profession. Ola has added Women-driver-partners program as a dedicated opportunity for unemployed women especially from economically weak sections. This program trains and empowers women to earn sustainable livelihood for her and her dependants. For this, Ola signed a MoU with Empower Pragati, an investee company of NSDC and Automotive Skills Development Council for training and, skill development and empowerment of 50,000 women drivers on its platform. To ensure that they achieve this goal they are tying up with both national and local partnership. These include All India Women’s Education Fund Association (AIWEFA), Delhi, Association for Non-traditional Employment for Women (ANEW), Chennai and Angel City Cab Service, Bangalore.

The memorandum also reads that the joint project will involve Ola, Empower Pragati and ASDC by identifying women from various sections of the society and up-skilling them to become driver-entrepreneurs on the Ola platform. The program will focus on supporting entrepreneurship, workforce skill development training and computer literacy giving women driver partners, access to a government recognized ASDC certificate. 

Millennium Post profiles women drivers, who have braved the odds, followed their passion and did not give up, when society and its norms questioned them.

Pinky Rani is a women driver with OLA who lives in Gautam Nagar area in Delhi NCR. She joined the Ola platform about an year ago. In the beginning, she used to drive for an operator, but bought a new car for herself with Ola’s help and she has seen her earnings on the increase ever since. What compliments this is the feeling of self-reliance.  She drives for around 8-10 hours a day and takes care of her household after logging out. She loves the fact that she does not have to work for someone and wait for a monthly salary to come but rather work according to her will. She is living in a Joint family, has three children, while her husband has passed away some time back. “When I joined Ola, I was able to boost my income to Rs 700 per day. My day used to start as early as 5:30 a.m. in the morning to prepare the meals for my family and drove the cab from 7 am to 8.30 p.m”, said Pinky Rani (42).

Veerath Bharathi is another inspiration for all those who give up way early in their period of struggle. Bharathi is a woman driver with Uber cabs in Bengaluru. In October 2013, Veerath became Uber’s first Indian female driver. Bharathi was not particularly bothered by working in an industry almost entirely comprised of men. For her, the ratio of female versus male drivers in cab companies is as flawed as the dismal gender statistics in almost every other sector.  

After working as a teacher for 15 years, Ganga Reddy Venkataappa, a Bengaluru based cab driver took a bold step of quitting her job and following her passion for driving. Being able to work on her own terms is what motivated her to join Ola.

She holds B. Com and B. Ed degrees and thought teaching is her obvious career choice, but never enjoyed it.  She joined Ola after hearing about the benefits like attractive incentives and good earnings, of the Ola platform through her friends. Self-reliance and flexible work timings is what she likes about the platform.

Her husband works in Indian Railways, and she has two children – a son and daughter who study in 7th standard and 9th standard respectively. Her family has been very supportive of her decision to quit teaching and explore her passion for driving. Today she is earning much more than before and at the same time, is managing things at home (including spending time with family) with quite ease due to working hours of her choice.

Started on Jan. 1, Bikxie bike taxi also operates like application bases Ola and Uber. Bikkie currently operates with 10 male and five women pilots in Gurgaon around the IFFCO Chowk Metro Station, a major hub in Gurgaon. Its Android-only app works like Ola and Uber, enabling customers can book a ride anywhere in Gurgaon. Unlike the ride-sharing companies, the pilots get a fixed salary and don’t own the vehicles.

Lalita Yadav, one of the five drivers who are part of India’s first fleet of bike taxis by and for women. Named Bikxie Pink after the colour of the scooters, the service has been launched in the city of Gurgaon adjoining the Indian capital Delhi.

Sources from the company also revealed to Millennium Post that along with introducing the category of women-driven cabs, the Bangaliri-based Ola has also started verifying details of its 50,000 
drivers using Aadhaar biometric recognition with Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
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