Behind The Wheel: How Women-Led Driving Businesses Are Redefining Womens Safety On Indian Roads

Behind The Wheel: How Women-Led Driving Businesses Are Redefining Women's Safety On Indian Roads

Women-led cab/driving services are reshaping the narrative of female mobility. Through features like live tracking and enhanced safety measures, they claim to offer both rides and a sense of financial freedom and security.

P*, a 31-year-old Uber cab driver, faced a brutal attack while she was picking up a ride late at night in New Delhi. After receiving little to no support from the platform company, she went on to join a new ride-hailing startup Bold and Beautiful that caters to only women customers and women drivers.

The surge in women-only cabs has emerged as a response to the escalating safety concerns within popular ride-hailing services like Uber and Ola. “There are safety measures that are provided in women-led cab businesses which work. Also, it feels safe in a space with women's presence,” said P*.

After a few months, P* stopped working at the startup due to a business halt. However, during her time there, she realised how safe it is to drive alongside another woman, an experience she had not previously encountered.

According to a survey by technology platform Neta App, 42 percent of Indian women feel “unsafe” in their surroundings; 43 percent revealed that they have faced an incident where their safety was undermined.

Violence against women is a significant concern in India, with a 2013 travel survey showing that 94% of women worry about their safety when travelling alone in the country. Government data also reveals a disturbing statistic, with a rape occurring every 15 minutes in India.

Many women cab drivers carry things like pepper spray, wrenches and have even taken up self-defence skills like karate to protect themselves during rides.

Many women-only cabs have gained popularity to provide a secure environment for women. These cab businesses aim to instill a sense of safety, particularly during nighttime travel. Equipped with dashcams, emergency SOS facilities, and other essentials, these vehicles claim to prioritise the well-being of passengers.

‘She Scooty’ working through mobile application model has gained significant customers in a limited time.

Several cab businesses, such as Sakha Cabs, Taxshe, She Taxi, SheCab Dehradun, Go Pink Cabs, and Priyadarshini Taxi, have come into the picture recently.

In 2015, Taxshe, a cab business exclusively for women and children was started by Vandana Suri and Sushil Shroff. According to the founder, by eliminating the malefactor and catering to 75% of the population, which includes women and children, it has gained approximately 1.2 million rides every year.

Speaking on the business model, Sushil Shroff said, “We train the drivers and put them on our cars. Once their productivity levels are up, we give them an entrepreneurship model. They can bring in their car and be a 70% sales partner.”

“Roughly they make about Rs 70,000 in a month. From that, they pay the EMIs and fuel charges, and ultimately they are left with a decent amount around Rs 35,000 to 36,000,” Shroff added.

He said that for the safety of women drivers, they had ensured mechanism like teaching self defense to the women, to protect themselves and their vehicle.

Kalaieselvi, a Taxi Driver, working exclusively for a women-only cab.

Kalaiselvi Manimaran, a 49-year-old single mother of two daughters, joined Taxshe in 2019 to earn extra income. Despite not knowing how to drive a cycle, she decided to take on the challenge of driving a four-wheeler. Speaking to Mojo Story, she acknowledged the rarity of women driving taxis and expressed her consciousness about the routes and turns she takes while driving

“The passerby sometimes says you cannot drive or stay home only. It is insulting. But there are some people who encourage and support. This encouragement helps me continue in the profession” Manimaran added.

While women riding cars on Indian roads is a rarity, socioeconomic factors and cultural norms further limit women's visibility on two-wheelers, especially in commercial spaces.

Scooty, a mobile application for two-wheeler taxi services exclusively for females, was launched to increase the independence of females stepping out for jobs, businesses, and other activities.

“We launched She Scooty to provide them with a secure transportation service. Over the years, we've evolved into a symbol of empowerment, offering rides and a sense of freedom and security through features like live tracking and enhanced safety measures.

Female riders feel safe with our female drivers, and vice versa. Our commitment to safety includes live tracking, SOS buttons, and live support for users and drivers. In terms of employment, we offer flexible timing options to empower women to balance work and household responsibilities,” an official response from She Scooty told Mojo Story.

Regarding the challenges faced by the business, the official said, “We differentiate ourselves by focusing on the unique needs of our female customers. While demand is consistently high, recruiting more female drivers remains a challenge due to the higher number of male drivers females.”

Sushil Shroff, the founder of TaxShe, highlighted women's challenges beyond the periphery of the roads. “Once a woman starts working and earning 15,000 rupees, she's treated as the breadwinner, a good breadwinner, supporting the family. But the minute she's earning Rs 25,000 or more than her husband, she gets a voice in the family. This is what is not acceptable to patriarchy. Their independent voices are not acceptable to their husband or mother-in-law. Then the problems arise in the family as the woman who has always kept quiet is giving it back. Financial independence brings high self-esteem amongst women,” he said.

He added that there is a high demand for women-led cab businesses but we need a regular supply of well-trained women cab drivers.

As women-led cab services continue to gain popularity, they pave the way for a more inclusive and safer transportation ecosystem in India. However, challenges persist in providing adequate driver training and increasing public trust in these services. Overcoming these obstacles is crucial for ensuring women-led cab businesses' long-term success and impact in India.

(*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individual.)

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