Over the past year, there has been an increasing demand for women drivers. All attributed to the rising number of questions asked on women’s safety, especially when they are travelling alone. There are several cab services that work towards empowering both the cab driver and the passenger by giving several women commuters the option of a woman driver.
Ola, however, looks at taking this a step ahead, with their model of nurturing micro entrepreneurship. They are looking at not just creating women cab drivers but Ola Women Entrepreneurs. “The idea was to empower women to be a part of the driver ecosystem by developing a sustainable model and also helping these women grow as entrepreneurs themselves,” says Anand Subramanian, Director of Marketing Communications, Ola.
A few months back, Ola Cabs launched Ola Pink, which is being fuelled by category specific initiatives like sourcing and training. Recently Ola signed an MoU with Empower Pragati [EP], an investee company of NSDC, and Automotive Skills Development Council for training, skill development and empowerment of women drivers on its platform.
Training and skill development
Through the ‘Pink Cabs’ initiative, Ola aims to encourage women to pursue driving as a career option. The key focus is to mobilize women mainly from the underprivileged sections of the society. The training includes driving theory and practice, basic mechanic skills and map reading. The women are also trained in communication skills, spoken English, technology, behaviour, etiquette and routes.
The basic selection criteria include women who hold a valid license and commercial badge. “Ola helps them by giving access to infrastructure, financing options and continuous revenue through the technology platform. Untrained women drivers are trained before they start driving for Ola,” adds Anand. Like for the other drivers, the women drivers too need a KYC of their professional and personal documentation.
To ensure complete transparency and safety, Ola has also initiated criminal check and police verification of all the drivers registered on the Ola app. Anand says: To accomplish this, we have hired AuthBridge, India’s leading background verification company and also one of the few organizations to have ISO and ISO-ISMS certifications in the industry.
Apart from undergoing extensive training to become a skilled driver, Ola also helps these women drivers take advantage of loans with daily repayment as against the current practice of an EMI from financial institutions like SBI, Shriram Transport Finance Company and Mahindra Finance. To help the drivers turn entrepreneurs, Ola had also set aside a fund of Rs. 100 crores to enable drivers buy their own cars.
One of the successful women driver entrepreneurs Renuka Devi said that she had always wanted to be an independent women and Ola helped her become so. Two years back she had started her business with one car, but today she has seven cars, which are all associated with Ola. What had started as an additional source of income, become a business and the main source of income for Renuka’s family. She says:
I am extremely happy to be associated with Ola since I receive enough support and the drivers get access to technology which helps us in getting customers.
Safety and standards
To ensure the safety of both the driver and the passenger, Ola has ensured that multiple layers of security features are in place. There is an SOS feature in the app that sends out all ride details in real-time, including GPS coordinates to a pre-set friend or family member via SMS and email. “Ola also has a 24/7 call center which can assist customers when in need. At the back end all the cabs can be tracked by Ola. We also have a feedback rating system in place which helps us keep a high quality experience,” adds Anand.
In case the women drivers feel uncomfortable at any point, they have the liberty to reject a booking. Anand says: “They can also contact the 24/7 driver support team for any assistance or guidance. Additional security features are in the pipeline.”
Another one of Ola’s women driver entrepreneur Sheeba says:
It’s been two months since I joined Ola and I am extremely happy with the kind of bookings I have been getting. I am treated well and get the freedom to work whenever I want to. This helps me in work-life balance.
Creating 50,000 women drivers in the next three years
While over 70 per cent of the drivers on Ola are entrepreneurs, many come in through car purchases as assisted by Ola from companies like Tata, Nissan, Maruti, Ford and Mahindra. Ola has also created a strong network of manufacturers and financial institutions to enable drivers to buy cars at better than market rates. They claim that over 15,000 drivers, across the country, have already benefitted from this program.
For the women drivers, Ola aims to add 50,000 women drivers to its platform in the next three years. To ensure that they achieve this goal they are tying up with both national and local partnership. These include All India Women’s Education Fund Association (AIWEFA), Delhi, Association for Non-traditional Employment for Women (ANEW), Chennai and Angel City Cab Service, Bangalore.
“Together, Ola, EP and ASDC will generate synergies that will result in a better future for women-driver entrepreneurs by creating sustainable careers and livelihoods for them,” concludes Anand.