Putting Women in the Driving Seat – Vandana Suri

Swapna Narayanan

Modern day feminist lingo often talks about the enabled woman, the empowered woman etc. So, who is an enabled woman? One who is able to take decisions in her household, or the one who is able to bring bread to the table, or the one who earns and educates her children using her own money, or the one who takes her own life’s decisions? The definition of an empowered woman is myriad, has many facets to it and has also been evolving since the time of our great grandmothers. 

One of the facets that significantly empowers and is very enabling to women, is their ability to drive.

Today let us talk to Vandana Suri, the founder of Taxshe, who is playing a big role in making an impact towards enabling women to drive.

Taxshe is a women cab service that is driven by women and drives women and kids to their destination. In their own words: Taxshe is a movement that makes India safer by knitting together a reliable transport fabric exclusively for women and children. We are a team of women custodians and “alternate moms” who drive women and kids to their destinations. Taxshe is not another cab service, we are the pioneers who have understood the epidemic of Child Sexual Abuse and found the most practical way to combat it – “Women Drivers”.

In addition, they also train women to drive using trainers who are women, whom they call as Roo. Roo is their brand for women drivers, taking inspiration from a Kangaroo mother – who is caring and strong. 

I recently caught up with Vandana, an ex-investment banker with over 25 years of experience, who takes pride in being called a cabbie. A woman of steel who believes that change begins with her. Not only she did set up Taxshe, she set up organizations such as ChopChopBoys – where she wants men to learn basic life skills of cooking and SingleSisterz – a community of single women in order to bring the much needed change in the social structure around us.

She is an inspiring woman at very many levels as is clear from the key social goals seen in all her initiatives!

Here are a few excerpts from our conversation:

Swapna: Hi Vandana. So happy to have you speaking to Eyra. A tad happier than the usual, for the fact that your vision in running Taxshe is to eradicate #MeToo for the next generation. Now – that is something that appeals to us at Eyra as we believe in using your intelligence and avoiding to repeat the mistake. Tell us more about Taxshe.

Vandana: Taxshe is a World Bank Award winning organisation, focusing on safe mobility solutions for women and kids. With the fundamental ethos of powered by love, driven by compassion, I wanted Taxshe to be a true enabler to both women and children. We have two major offerings,  Taxshe Huddle – women cabs exclusively for women and kids and Taxshe Breakfree – where we have women coaches training women to drive their own cars.

Swapna: Why a taxi service? Why not any other business which would have created a similar impact, if not more?

Vandana: Not sure why a taxi business. I think it is a matter of what triggers you and appeals to you. Back in college, when everyone wanted to be a doctor or an engineer,  I wanted to be a mother. My friends would laugh and remind me that motherhood is not a career, but yet it was what appealed to my heart. I could hear my heart’s calling.  

Today, my work is not running a taxi business. My work is to enable alternate moms to pick up and drop kids to schools and tuitions. The cabs and cab management are just necessary tools to take care of the logistical aspects. What I am offering is safe and trustworthy mechanism to get your child to school or tuitions with a woman you can trust and who is the alternate mother.

What I do know here is that this taxi business has made my motherhood as a career dream come true.

This is destiny at work.

Swapna: Tell us about Vandana as a woman. How has your life’s experiences moulded you and made you realise the power of being a woman? 

Vandana: Life as a woman has been what every woman faces. A lot of abuse from childhood to adulthood. #metoo was a part of my life just like every other woman’s.  That negativity, that frustration is actually power. 

The anger, the angst, the agony kept throttling me to make the world a safer place. It is like fire – fire can be used to warm up and a fire can burn. I realised that it all depends on how you use energy. So today, I have ensured about 1.2 million safe drives for women and kids. I transformed my angst and I know that I am using that fire within me in the right way.

Swapna:  What next? For you as a woman and for Taxshe?

Vandana: Everything revolves in my life around safety of women and kids. We have already started training women to drive, self-drive so you do not expose yourself to the risk of abuse in public transport at all.  Be done with it. 

I am all focused on bringing out more practical solutions.  I have just launched a new vertical MomsWillGo,  where moms will go and pick up their kids from the hostels and bring them home. 

There are many more such verticals to come. I need more women to partner with, join the mobility industry which needs more women.  Think about education – at one point of time, we women were not allowed to go to school, today education is a women dominated industry. 

Why? 

Because of safety. Same way we women can take over the mobility industry as well, join in and spread the fire. For the sake of our next generation of women, join the revolution.

*All images used in this article are either Eyra’s own design or widely and freely available on the internet.*

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