Pink clad women – the wildest of our imaginations wouldn’t come up with the thought that they are taxi drivers. But that’s Priyadarshini Taxi Service for you – An all women fleet of cabbies taking on the roads of Mumbai – a completely male dominated space and notably, against the common notion that women are bad drivers.
Taking this completely out of the box idea to empower women, Priyadarshini Taxi Service has made a bold statement. Susieben Shah, the founder of Priyadarshini Taxi Service, says that she felt that women empowerment needed to look beyond the conventional ideas of papad or achar making. “There was a twinkle in the eyes of these women when the challenge of becoming a taxi driver was put to them. They want to do something different, something that is a boost to their self esteem”, says Susieben.
Priyadarshini’s lady drivers, 20 as of today, come from lower middle class families. At Priyadarshini, the cab fleet, the office staff, the director, the shareholders, the call center personnel – the entire show is run by women. This is indeed big take on the myth that women cannot work together in harmony.
The women are interviewed, chosen and given intensive three month training before they wear their pink uniforms as taxi drivers. Their families are interviewed too to make sure that there is family support for these women who would be out on the road for more than 10 to 12 hours in a day. The training, which is given free of cost to the women – thanks to the grant given by the government, is not just about driving. It covers a whole lot of things that will help the women handle their tough job. They learn to maintain the cars, get some knowledge on the tourist attractions in Mumbai to act as a driver cum guide, get equipped with first-aid skills to handle emergencies and learn some self-defense techniques. A crash course on communications skills, basic accounting, etiquette and cleanliness is given along with yoga and meditation classes that will help them handle stress. So at the end of three months, they are confident team of women who are all set for the challenges on the road.
The streets of Mumbai have seen these lady taxi drivers catching up with their male counterparts since 2008. Since then they have earned the name as the most women friendly service in Mumbai. Women trust them for their safety and families for their comfort and friendliness.
Now for the obvious question, how safe has it been for the women drivers? It is a tough job, but Mumbai being Mumbai, has been extremely friendly to the lady drivers. They are on the streets during the wee hours of the nights too but nothing untoward has happened. The women say that both the customers and other male taxi drivers have been friendly to them. Public toilets, though Sulabh public toilets have been of great relief, could have been better, says Susieben.
Coming from families that have struggled to make their ends meet, these women are able to single handedly earn an income of 10 to 12 thousand rupees a month. They have driven their way to success that translates into better living for their families and better education for their children – a positive impact that will ripple across many lives.
Priyadarshini phone booking number is +91-9820221107 or +91-9320845064. Landline number is +(91)-(22)-43333999 or +(91)-(22)-66608779.