Gurgaon to launch women-driven cabs soon but is this model sustainable?

Gurgaon  will soon be joining Mumbai and Delhi by launching women-only driven taxis to curb incidents like eve-teasing, harassment. The Gurgaon district administration plans to launch women-driven cabs exclusively for women in 100 days with 50 Tata Nano vehicles.

"The district administration will also help the interested women to buy and run this cab service."—The Times of India report said.

 Gurgaon to launch women-driven cabs soon but is this model sustainable?

Members of Priyadarshini Taxi Service. Image courtesy PTC

Four larger stakeholders -- the Gurgaon district administration, Rural Development and Self-Employment Training Institute(Rudest), Tata Motors and banks -- will be part of the project. It would be the responsibility of Rudset to identify women willing to be part of the initiative as drivers and then train them for 21 days in soft skills at a Tata Motors facility. The company would also provide them with the required Nano fleet and a trainer.

"According to the Deputy Commissioner T.L. Satya Prakash, the administration will ask MNCs and call centres to tie up with this women cab service for picking up and dropping their women employees. This will also help women drivers to repay their loans easily and contribute in enhancing the income of the family. This will also help in generating employment avenues for educated unemployed women and help in controlling crimes against women."—said a report in The Hindu.

However, the moot point is not about starting such a service but sustaining it.

"Brands like SheCabs, Priyadarshini Taxi Service and Viira Cabs have cropped up over the past five years to meet the demand of solo women travelers in Indian cities, with the added benefit of employing more women in a male-dominated market. But few have managed to stay afloat, or grow their companies enough to make an impact."Ankita Rao wrote in her piece What happened to all those women taxi drivers in India? in Quartz India.

While safety of the women commuters in such cabs is the USP, the economy quotient of such niche endeavours cannot be ignored.

he latest rape of a woman executive in  December 2014 and the December 2012 chilling rape and murder of a physiotherapy student could very well move women commuters to seek safer options to move around but affordability is also a condition for such privilege.

"Mumbai-based Priyadarshini charges Rs 250 for the first 10 kilometres and Rs 21 per km after that. Ola Mini, on the other hand, charges only Rs 15 per km."—Rao wrote in Quartz India.

These women only fleet cabs are facing problems like small fleet size, lack of big ticket investments and unavailability of other key infrastructure necessary to provide a seamless experience.

"Despite lack of advertising, most women are aware of these dedicated cab services, but these firms are unable to cater to the demand due to their small fleets."—Nikita Doval wrote in Mint.

Money is hard to come by for these firms. For-She founder Revathi Roy, who started the service in 2007 with a strategic tie-up with Orix, had to exit in 2009. Her later venture Viira Cabs as one of the co-founders received Rs 1.7 crore in 2010 from an angel investor but it failed to raise money in India later.

"Money has to flow in to make sure that women can be trained. Once that barrier is broken, the floodgates will open as there is such a demand for this," Roy was quoted as saying by Mint.

There are domestic problems too.

"Women have to fulfill more family expectations—attend to tragedies, rituals. Sometimes they are the only ones at home that fill the water that comes at a certain time," Nayantara Janardhan, a director at Sakha Consulting Wings told Quartz India.

Following the Uber Cab rape incident in Delhi, Meru Cab stepped in with Meru Eve to target women-customers by using women as service-providers.

"Its new line of taxis in Delhi will be driven by women. They will have pepper spray and panic buttons that immediately notify Meru if there is trouble... The Meru Eve drivers will wear pink vests and drive white-and-pink hatchbacks."—said a piece in The Wall Street Journal.

The firm started the service in January with a fleet of 20 vehicles.

The initiative by the Gurgaon administration would tackle unemployment among women to some extent besides providing women commuters with a safe ride but financial viability is key.

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Updated Date: Feb 17, 2015 16:37:08 IST