Thursday, March 08, 2007

Fab cabs: not a gender issue!

It's International Women's Day, which means the papers are full of stories about 'how-far-we-have-come' and 'what-a-long-way-left-to-go. And of course, the 'glass ceiling'.

One of the more unusual features today was the launch of a taxi service of, for and by women in Mumbai. The person behind is 47 year old Revati Roy, a former rally driver.

Mid day reports: The women-only service called Forsche (pronounced as ‘For-she’) has a fleet of 15 cars (like Santros and Indicas), which, among other things, offers graduate English-speaking women drivers.

Every taxi will also pamper its women clients with vanity mirrors, make-up kits and personal hygiene products. More so, every car will be equipped with a global positioning system for enhanced security and convenience.

Launching an all-woman cab service on Women's Day is a good idea. It makes a great story and just about every news factory has prominently covered it. However, I am a little ambivalent about the need for such a service. And more so, in Bombay.

I've travelled by cabs at all hours - including past midnight - and never felt unsafe. Of late, there are instances of cabbies overcharging. But generally, if you know what the fare should be and are firm about it, they back off.

I usually scan the available taxis for an older looking or Sardarji driver. In my experience they are more honest. But with any kind of Mumbai cabbie, 'indecency' I am yet to come across.

So frankly, I would not be keen to pay a big premium for hiring a taxi driven by a woman. In fact at the rates Forsche is charging I am wondering who will hire these cabs? Rs 4000 for 8 hours is a lot, given that the regular rate for an a/c Esteem, is Rs 1000 for 8 hrs. There may be a few takers in hotels and corporates but how scalable is the business?

What's more the operating hours right now are only 8 am to 8 pm. I mean even if I were to feel unsafe the problem would occur late at night, wouldn't it?

On the other hand, I am all for the GPS navigated taxi services - like they have in Singapore. I don't really care whether such a taxi is driven by a man or woman. As long as it's clean, reliably driven and available on demand.

I used such a service in Delhi recently. It's called Easycab. All you do is dial 43434343, give your location and within 15 minutes an Easy Cab is at your doorstep. There's another similar service in Delhi for which you have to dial 1929. I am yet to try it but a friend was quite satisfied -except for the Rs 6 a minute they charge when you call up. No such hassles with Easycab.

Now of course Delhi-ites generally have numbers of taxi services by-hearted. And the local stand ka taxi may work out cheaper. But for a baaharwala Easycab is a God-send. The taxi I got was an Esteem - clean, air conditioned and with a uniformed driver. The rate is a flat Rs 15 per km, visible on a reliable digital meter and the driver is extremely polite. Honestly, I felt safe and relaxed in a Delhi cab for the first time ever. And I am not surprised to learn from Tech2 that:

Chauffeurs for EasyCabs have been recruited after conducting four verifications (which included police, bank and two personal verifications). They also had to undergo a multi step process which included various tests such as written, spoken, attitude, psychology, road knowledge and behaviour.

Easycab will soon be launching in Hyderabad and also has Mumbai on its radar. The company plans a fleet of 5000 cars in Delhi and 10,000 in Mumbai - and I am sure there will be initial resistance but eventually they will achieve that.

The smart thing to do perhaps would be to integrate the Forsche service within a larger umbrella like this. Male or female driver? Quite irrelevant - it's the brand that needs to stand for safety, value and comfort.

Lastly, Forsche recruited drivers from an ad it placed in Mid-day a couple of months ago. Apparently a range of women applied. Says Ms Roy:

“While Prabhjyot Kaur (57), a grandmother and graduate in economics and sociology will be our oldest driver, the youngest in my fleet of taxis is Rajashree H (32), an electronics engineer from BITS Pilani.”

I'd dearly love to meet this engineer and ask... why?


  1. its been a godd news for the ladies who think that the taxi driver are the men who EYE ladies in back sit more than the road in the front. as far as the cost goes its alright to pay a primium for all the facilit they are providing.

    Though the time is a cricial factor a 8 to 8 thing should be from 8pm to 8am not the other way round.

  2. Ouch! Thanks for mentioning the price RAshmi, now I know why the play is more on Porsche rather than 'For she' as the promoter claims. And I would have thought women who can pay 4000 bucks for 8 hours would certainly be well capable of taking care of themselves in any case:)

    The Rs 6 per minute call charges for Easycabs are also a shocker, and has to be a first in the world.

  3. wrt the BITS engineer... please do ask! And blog about it. It's your moral duty as a blogger!

  4. It was good to know that Mumbai is safe as far as Cabs are concerned.

  5. 4000 for 8 hours, Woah !!!

    I would rather hire a driver for that much. Considering thats near the monthly salary for one.

    Another thing I noticed was Graduate drivers. Thats a waste of Human Resource. Does it take a graudate degree to drive a cab.

  6. but in india if u just forget some important stuff of urs in a taxi and then recall it after some time and then let us say you know the taxi number can you try to trace the taxi.
    And i am not talking about any easycab cabs or the one that u called. But, just any cab or taxi or auto that u picked up from the road.

    Here in china(i m not in some big metro) they have taxi driver information of every driver based on his taxi number information. Every taxi has a common radio so any announcement can be made which would be heard by all taxi drivers. I think something like that is very important.

  7. Quite honestly, how often do you have to go hunting for a cab in Mumbai?

    I prefer to simply use mass transit where possible, with cabs as a last option. While this may work in Delhi, or other places where public transit isn't quite as good, I don't really see it working well in Mumbai.

  8. Can you pass on the telephone number for Forsche in Bombay? If you have numbers for any other recommended car service in Bombay I'd appreicate it, thanks, JB

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