Hail TAXI- By Women, For Women!

The Priyadarshini Taxi Service was founded by the go-ahead advocate-entrepreneur-mother Susieben Shah to train and employ economically backward class women of Mumbai (India) to drive taxis in which women riders feel safe, snug and serene

The Womenz team had an opportunity to interview Susieben Shah – Founder – Priyadarshini Taxi and here’s what they shared with us


Hello Susieben, please tell us something about you

I am a compassionate social worker, social entrepreneur, lawyer and author of books on urbanization and women empowerment. I have dedicated myself to the progress and welfare of society.

 

What inspired you to start with Priyadarshini Taxi? Please explain the story behind

The spirit behind Priyadarshini Taxi Service is to create an Income generating capacity in women, which would result in better standing for the woman in family & in society at large.

Realizing the lack of women drivers in the city, she introduced this programme, where women who earn an income of less than Rs. 10,000 are trained and employed to drive taxis. She states that the service is ‘born in the gullies and chawls of Mumbai’.


Tell us more about Priyadarshini Taxi

I started & implemented this initiative that you know as the Priyadarshani Taxi Service, where I play a role as an entrepreneur and social activist, since 2008. A women-oriented service, where taxis are driven by women trained in efficient driving, this active initiative has taken to empower women from economically backward classes, and the minorities from the weaker sectors of society. It provides an opportunity for success-hungry, forward-minded women, to stand equally with men.?


How you managed to build your team of Lady Drivers?

Priyadarshini Taxi Service is born in the gullies and chawls of Mumbai. As President of Stree Shakti Kendra, I have helped implement welfare schemes of the Govt. for the poor, old and destitute men and women of Mumbai. While visiting them, I came across lots of young women, who had a twinkle in their eyes and a hunger to reach out & succeed. What they lacked was the opportunity and path / direction to realize their dreams.  We took this mantle and enrolled women who wanted to enter the male dominated profession of driving taxis in Mumbai.


Our focus was those women whose family income was less than Rs.10, 000/- p.m. We received more than 100 applications and conducted interviews with the candidates and their families because it is very important that when a woman is on the road for 10 / 12 hrs, the family support them. This means and counts a lot to the lady driver. We conducted extensive training for 3 months which of course included amongst others, training in skilful and efficient driving.   The aim of the comprehensive training programme is to ensure that the participants come out more confident, Empowered and Smart - ready to face the challenges of the 21st Century.


Many of our drivers are widows, single mother and from the Minority Community. Many of them are the sole bread winners of their family. This paves the way to a definite shift from the patriarchal family to a matriarchal family, where the head of the family, the decision maker, is the Priyadarshini Woman. Further, it must be stressed that the income so generated is used for a better standard of living, health and education for the family. 



Priyadarshini Taxi Team


How was the initial response from your friends and other contacts when you decided to float a Taxi – For the women and by the women?

Priyadarshini Taxi service is a taxi service driven by women where the focus is on the women driver and not on the passenger. Our services are open to all Mubaikars! All the same 80% of our client base is women commuters, passengers.

I strongly believe that for women to succeed or an enterprise to succeed you needs help from all the stake holders & family. I was fortunate that not only my dear n near one’s supported me but also contributed financially in helping me to generate initial funds necessary to run a taxi service.

 

Your journey as an entrepreneur and motivation to scale this far?

Priyadarshini is a unique & novel concept in empowering women focusing on their skill building & economic independence. With the growing urban landscape and increasing participation of women in the work force Priyadarshini Taxi Services has emerged as a preferred mode of transportation for women at large passengers, commuters & senior citizens in Mumbai.


How is the response to your Taxis?

India is a growing tourism hub. But unfortunately, there is also a steady rise in the levels of harassment and eve teasing of women tourists, who are more vulnerable to this social evil. Priyadarshini Taxi Service has emerged as safer and more suitable alternative for these women tourists. Surely our taxi services are true depiction of Atithi Devo Bhava! (Customer is God)

Our Service is essentially a women oriented service. Our services are also used by Call centres, Corporate, Travel agents, Hostels, etc. For their women employees and customers, who feel more comfortable if the taxi is driven by a woman! Our service assures them with the much needed safety, security 7 comfort.


 


As women did you face any hurdles in your journey? If yes, how you faced and conquered them?

I think the driving force of this entire initiative is Economic Empowerment of Women unless & until I firmly believe women’s empowerment begins & ends with their economic empowerment by making them economically self-reliant & independent.


The primary hurdle that I am facing is generating investor’s interest in the Initiative. 


Please tell us about your family and their support to your initiatives.

I am blessed by a very good professional team and supportive family members who are the biggest pillars and motivation for my work. At the home front, my family members who believe in my passion for women empowerment are always there to extend their help and support to me in all my initiatives.


How you manage to balance your family and work life?

Basically all women are born planners and very good at multi-tasking. I am proud to say I am a woman in the true sense having a passion for my work and deep-rooted love for my near and dear ones.  I am blessed by a very good professional team and supportive family members who are the biggest pillars and motivation for my work. At the home front, my family members who believe in my passion for women empowerment are always there to extend their help and support to me in all my initiatives.


A capable professional with well-knitted team members at work helps one entrust the greatest of responsibilities on the team members with instructions to handle them independently and derive the highest level of results from them. I am a strong believer in team work, multi-tasking and evaluate work accomplished by others with compassion.


With rapid advancements in technology and availability of more sophisticated, state-of-the-art gadgets, it has now become easier to accomplish work responsibilities with ease and beyond the physical boundaries of office/home at the same time. Extended long hours of working and busy work schedules arising out of sheer passion for work surely affect personal life and health. However, my regular physical exercises and routine morning walks help my body to cope up with stress and keep me physically fit to undertake more strenuous work responsibilities.

Although having to share multiple responsibilities like being a housewife, a mother and lastly as a director at work place, I enthusiastically accomplish the responsibilities associated with all the three portfolios without having to encounter any sort of difficulties.    



From Extreme Left, Vidyut Shah (Husband), Aditya Shah (Son), Radhika Shah (Daughter), Yashvi Shah (Daughter) & Susieben Shah to extreme right.


What are the other ventures you are associated with?

I am founder director of export trading house V.S.International PVT LTD.

- General Secretary Priyadarshini Park & Sports Complex.

- President Stree Shakti Kendra 80G charitable trust.

- Founder & Director of Priyadarshini Taxi Services.



Your biggest achievement so far.

Being mother of THREE wonderful children!! 



Susieben Shah  with her awards and recognitions


Your further growth plans

It is our Endeavour to make our service more viable, visible and available. To achieve that  we are in talks with a leading International Corporation who specialize in Travel & Logistics business with a view to grow our fleet in Mumbai and take the concept to other cities in India.

Priyadarshini is tied up with leading Medical Tourism Service Companies for providing specialized services as per the requirements of the patients coming from around the world. We not only provide the drop & pick service from the Airports but the Priyadarshini women also cater to the varied medical needs during their treatments.


Our services are also used by Call Centres, Corporate, Travel Agents, Hotels, etc. for their Women employees and customers, who feel more comfortable if the taxi is driven by a Woman! Our service assures them with the much needed safety, security and comfort.


We are the only service provider who has been granted permits for Women Drivers by the Government of Maharashtra. Our short term goal is to be 75 taxis on the road by the end of this year and 200 by the end of 2016. With growing urbanization and ever growing women participation in the work force, Priyadarshini Taxi, would definitely emerge as a safe and secure alternative to working professional and/or a regular commuter.  


Your views on Gender equality

For far too long, we have swept the hard facts and statistics regarding Crimes against Women. The shocking statistics need to be highlighted to shock us into being the change we wish to see in the world.  #IgnoreNoMore is an initiative by me that seeks to spread the message that each of us can begin the fight against gender violence if we simple decide to stop being silent witnesses.


The campaign encouraged people to take a pledge to speak up, be heard and not allow environments in which crimes against women occur to flourish. According to NCRB data, in most crimes against women, the perpetrator is a close relative or acquaintance of the victim. This is why it is important for each of us, at home, at our workplaces and in our society to be the first line of defence against such crimes.



Susieben Shah 


Any message to aspiring women out there who are struggling to prove themselves?

Believe in yourself Dream aspire & Never quit till you succeed. Should you have believe in your initiative hold it run with it for 1000 days trust me thereafter you are bound to succeed.

 

Susiben, we at TheWomenz team express our earnest appreciation for sharing your unique story with us. We believe it will surely stimulate fellow women in every country and continent in the world.

 

Susiben Shah can be reached on Linkedin, Facebook & twitter 


Here is an introductory video shared by Susiben Shah




First Published: 26-Jul-2017- 18:25


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