For Her Safety - Vandana Suri’s Roo Taxshe
Updated: Jan 28
Geeta C Yadav
Safety of women, senior citizens and children is a pressing need that calls for societal intervention. Deteriorating human behavior demands a movement that has to have equal participation from all strata of society for it ills all and permeates through a social system that reeks of patriarchy. For this, we need to take responsibility because conditioning first begins at home and slowly envelops the human psyche over centuries. As women, we can’t wait for state intervention and promulgation of laws to scare away perpetrators of crimes against women and children. Aren’t we all suffering from political apathy especially when it comes to our safety in a political system that goes silent once the elections get over? Let’s change the world for ourselves. We need to extend ourselves to touch each other, leave our comfort zones and create safe pockets in an environment that is unempathetic to women. Taxshe is a women driver and women cab organization. It is a movement that is for the women, by the women with the purpose to create a safer environment for women and children. White Print brings to you an exclusive interview with Vandana Suri, Founder-Roo of Taxshe to know about her cab service that is steadily expanding to Delhi-NCR after successful operations in Bangalore.
WP: What made you think of Taxshe?
VS: I think it was the burning desire every woman has today, to be safe. There are people who wait for things to change, and there are people who decide to ignite the change. All we need is a trigger. This trigger moment for me was in December 2014, there was a newspaper headline by a rape victim in an Uber in Delhi, “If there was a woman driving me, this would not have happened.” That’s when I realized that it was time to become a cabbie and get more to join in.
WP: The logo of Taxshe shows a kangaroo mom with its young one secured in her pouch? Could you please share the reason behind your choice of logo? Also, why are women drivers called Roo?
VS: When we were thinking of a logo, we thought let’s look for an animal, someone strong as well as caring. That’s when we decided to focus on the Kangaroo, it’s such a maternal animal and it can really beat up someone as well. Roo is our brand for women drivers, taking inspiration from a Kangaroo mother, keeping children safe, being strong and supportive in venturing out to bring women comfort and peace of mind. Naari shakti totally!
WP: What are the services that are being offered by Taxshe? Do schools, old age homes and offices contact you to run their vehicles on a regular basis?
VS: Our core work is around who needs us the most, women drivers being so less, we are like an oxygen mask to be used very prudently. So, mornings and evenings we focus on driving kids to schools and tutorials, we are alternate moms driving them. Evenings we focus on office going women and late night airport drives. Schools and corporates are annual contracts for us. We do drive senior citizens, however currently it's very less in numbers as we are already booked out for the entire year.
WP: You have empowered women from slums by providing driving skills and basic education. This is a commendable step towards an inclusive society. What did it take to
convince them to be a part of a revolution where women take up the responsibility of creating safe spaces for each other?
VS: All we needed to tell them was to be the mothers they already were, they were now mothers to more kids. We had to show them what a big difference they were making to the next generation, to the entire society. That purpose in life clicked for them.
WP: While it is important for women to create safe spaces for themselves and agitate for a better world, don’t you think the emotional labour takes a toll on us? Isn’t it unfair that instead of having men dispel toxic masculinity, we are having to create defense systems to protect ourselves? What has your experience been like?
VS: Yes, we are in a situation where we have to create defense systems around us, you are right about that. The point is that change takes generations. Our earlier generations were so quiet about this, and it has been drilled into women’s heads from centuries now to be coy and accept all nonsense, and not speak up. I think this change was warranted for. Today if women don’t wake up, the next generations will end up in the same unsafe space. It’s important to do this.
WP: As the Founder-Roo, did you feel intimidated with some peculiar challenges, of running a cab service for women, children and senior citizens.
VS: No, not at all. It’s been a whole lot of fun running this. The kids we drive just make my day, every single day we get so many stories coming out of the cabs. The parents also value this service so much, my Roos are treated with a lot of respect. It’s all about making up your mind, the rest of the pieces automatically fall into place.
WP: How do you groom women drivers to make them professional in every possible way? What about their safety as they drive to pick and drop clients during the day and even at unearthly hours?
VS: Firstly, we train women in professional driving over 6-8 months, it’s a myth that people can learn to drive in 15 days like in regular driving schools. Not possible. So we put her through 6-8 months of training wherein they experience traffic snarls, water clogged roads, etc. Beyond that, we train her in self defence, first aid, and basic English language. As for safety, the first is that they drive only women and kids. So that’s the first level of safety for them. Drives are well planned in advance with the routes given much earlier. So she is not in any random, unplanned location. We even have our internal database of roads without proper lighting, so she is trained to avoid such roads. Even our cabs are not coloured “pink”. We play down on our branding big time. We should not come in notice that there is a woman driving this cab, safety is in blending in. GPS trackers, and Pepper Sprays also keep them equipped to face unforeseen contingencies.
WP: What is the ‘Finishing Course,’ introduced by Taxshe all about?
VS: Finishing course is a driving course for women who have licenses but don’t know how to drive. I think the driving schools across the country are very fixated on their 15 hours of training rather than actually getting people to drive. Sometimes people need more time and practice, sometimes they have had a scare on the roads and give up driving. A lot of practice is needed for driving and that is what we do for women. For this, we have women trainers sitting next to the lady client, giving her confidence to drive in her own car, on her own routes.
WP: Taxshe is an exclusive cab service but young outstation students specially the ones living in hostels or PGs find it expensive and unaffordable. How about introducing car pools or special drives as they are at greater risk in unsafe cities like Delhi, Gurgaon or Bangalore that are new for them.
VS: Yes, that’s next on the cards. We are alternate moms, and now we will help parents by picking up their kids from hostels etc., and get them to the nearest airports or home. Carpools need very high technology, so we first need funding to launch the service, still awaiting funds.
WP: What are the challenges that you face in expanding Taxshe across different cities?
VS: The biggest issue that we face is finding women drivers and convincing them to take up a career in driving cabs. The under privileged segment is still very vary about the career and also once they start driving, they become very independent and bold, that’s not what their families like and hence they are pulled back. Middle class women know how to drive but they are not open to take up this profession. So it’s a slow process.
WP: What are your future plans towards women safety?
VS: Our next roll outs this year would be the pickup and drop of kids from Hostels, residential schools, and TAXSHE ATITHI – this caters to women travelers, right from the time they are picked from the airport to their intra-city and inter-city tours to their drop back. We want women to know that India is a safe country and we will go all out to make it safe for them.
1. Proud Moments At Taxshe: When some of our roos started from making 8000 a month to earning 70000/- a month. They are now cab owners and entrepreneurs earning well month after month. Now I see them making decisions about their children’s education, their own retirement, and investment plans. It makes me beam with pride.
2. Awards: Quite a few, the biggest one being the World Bank Award, under their SDGs and her contest 2019. We were invited to Washington to receive this award and represent India at the world forum. I also gave a speech infront of the IFC and World Bank.
3. Special Testimonials: The best one was from this lady we drove at night, she said “I could finally snore in the car, that’s what nights are for!.There was no need to worry about tracking the driver on my GPS or pretending to speak on the phone for the sake of my safety.