MUMBAI:How often does it happen that you book an app cab in the wee hours and find a burqa-clad woman pulling up in her red hatchback?
“People find it tough to believe it when I call them up and ask for directions or when they see me in the driver’s seat,” says 30-year-old Rizwana Shaikh, a stay-at-home mum by day and Ola driver by night. Shaikh, who grew up in Lucknow, moved here after her marriage to a Jogeshwari businessman.
While it’s been some years since women stormed the male bastion and started driving taxis and autos, aggregators have taken the trend several notches higher. Women, especially from conservative backgrounds, are stepping out of rigid community boundaries to become part of the city’s nightlife. With GPS tracking their every move, the women are not troubled by safety concerns.
Shaikh, mother of a seven-year-old, claims in the eight months she has been on the roads at night seldom has she come across any trouble-maker. “However, when sloshed men book the cab I feel uncomfortable and don’t go ahead with the ride,” says Shaikh, who was a beautician earlier. With a monthly income between Rs 30,000 and Rs 40,000, she says, “This is a more lucrative profession.”
“My husband and family have been very supportive and understand this job is necessary to meet household expenses,” she says.
Mehjabeen, 42, also a Jogeshwari resident, is a night-shift veteran and zips across the city without any trepidation. While her husband is a marketing professional, she has been a driver for six years now. “I start my day at 8pm after wrapping up household duties and drive till morning,” she said, adding her family has been supportive.
Ola as well as Uber refused to reveal the number of women on their rolls in the city, but both agreed the trend was on the rise.
“The number of women partners is growing by over 40% quarter on quarter in metros as well as tier-2 and -3 cities. We have women working with us across categories like cabs, autos and bikes,” said an Ola spokesperson.
The advantage of working with aggregator platforms, says 25-year-old Vidya Shelke, an auto driver, is that we can choose our working hours. “I take bookings only when I can manage. Also, I do not have to park my vehicle at the stand and wait for commuters. This is way more convenient and safe,” said Shelke, who lives in the western suburbs with her husband and two children. She has been on the job for the past six months.
For young women like Prajaktha Salunkhe, it is a route to financial independence. “Without any capital or financial support, it is difficult to start any venture. This comes as a boon,” says the 23-year-old cabbie, who took to driving soon after graduation.
Aggregator platforms are doing their bit through skill development and training programmes. “We aim to hire more women from sections where cultural and societal pressures have been a barrier,” said an Uber spokesperson.