She indeed can drive.
Meet Sneha Kamath, Proprietor of She Can Drive, India’s only car driving training venture for women and by a woman – Sneha.
The youngest of four siblings in a conservative Marwari family, Sneha always wanted to do something different, unlike a girl, right from childhood. An Economics graduate, Sneha was born and brought up in Mumbai. She did her post-graduation in Sociology and was very keen on pursuing her studies. She even went on to do a MS Certified Service Engineer course.
A childhood which made her rebellious
Sneha had seen a very bitter childhood as her parents were divorced. She lived with her paternal grandmother and remembers how all four siblings were scattered.
In fact, my sister had to give up on her studies in Std 7 for my education. We literally had to struggle,
says Sneha who lost her father at the age of 17. She recalls the fighter spirit with which she and her siblings used to go around from one parent to the other in the hope of getting their attention and spending some quality time with them.
Sneha’s first job was as an Archies salesgirl which required her to sell greeting cards to customers. She earned Rs 1,000 a month and pursued her higher studies with that money. This bold woman owes her fighter spirit to her mother.
The next few years
The following ten years saw Sneha work in various sectors in different capacities. She knew one thing for certain – that she didn’t want to report to a boss at work. Subsequently she got married and took a pregnancy break.
As time passed, she realized one thing- she drove really well. “My brother had taught me how to drive and I simply used to love setting out on long drives,” says Sneha whose sister told her that she could not drive even after learning to do so after 16 long years.
This, Sneha thought, was rather surprising and tried getting to the root of the problem. On delving deeper – she got her answer. “The male trainers tried to get physical many a times and had a mindset that women are simply whiling away their time, they were not serious about driving,” says Sneha.
“I could imagine – if I was uncomfortable reporting to men bosses working on secretarial and executive assistant roles, women sitting next to men and learning to drive could well be an unpleasant experience,” she says. If men can drive with ease, it certainly does not mean they can teach driving as well.
That mindset had to be changed, says Sneha, which made her take to the wheels with a vengeance, to pass on the driving skills to women. As luck would have it, she was absolutely discouraged on the family front but being the courageous person she was, she managed to convince all.
She Can Drive starts up
She Can Drive started up in 2012 and since then, Sneha has trained nearly 400 women to drive. Though she has not converted that to a driving school yet, she intends to do that soon.
Sneha’s popularity could well be due to her innovative way of dealing with students.
The moment I step inside their car, I ask them what interests them. It is interesting how each time the answer I get is rather different. Women aspire to do great things but are limited by their vision, I try and bring them out of their shell and try to motivate them to start something on their own.
The experiences so far
She remembers her first student, who Sneha trained in her own car. “She banged the car on the second day itself and people were furious at me. But I paid up for it and everything was sorted. She is one of my ‘bestest’ students till date.” Sneha operates on the Dahisar Highway to Bandra stretch.
One of Sneha’s students is 58-year-old Leela Deshpande, who badly wanted to learn driving. She was thoroughly discouraged by her husband and her son staying in the US, who said they would have a driver come in but Leela was adamant on learning it herself. “And she did it. She was so happy to be able to drive on her own,” recalls Sneha.
A busy schedule
Driving keeps her busy the whole day. She starts in the morning, as early as 7.30 and calls it a day only by midnight, as working professionals can only get trained in the late evening hours. This entrepreneur however makes sure that she is home in the afternoon to feed and take care of her seven-year-old daughter and then head back to work.
Here’s something interesting at She Can Drive.
I have in place a money-return policy if they don’t get trained in 10 days flat. So far, I haven’t had to return a single fee which in itself speaks volumes about women’s confidence and their dedication to master the skill,
Her future plans
Having been interviewed by BBC and several other reputed publications, Sneha now wants to give back to society. “I now want to train rural women and want them to work for me. Some would be placed in companies too as official cab drivers. They need not be maids, I desire to empower them,” says Sneha rather confidently. Sneha is planning to start her services pan India soon. This self-made entrepreneur believes in one thing – Give women the confidence and they will do wonders!