Versions of the saying ‘Money cannot buy happiness’ are popular around the world, in varied languages and cultures. It might be politically incorrect to say this, but the fact is that even if a person is healthy and enjoys close-knit relationships with family and friends, financial struggles can lead to deep unhappiness. Nandini B., 33, can attest to this as she has struggled to make ends meet until recently. Having grown up in a lower-middle-class family, and having had to discontinue her education after PUC, the odds were stacked against her. Nandini’s life changed when she partnered with Uber and became an ‘Uber Dost’, becoming one of the country’s top earners in the referral programme of the American online transportation network company.
Growing up in a village near Bengaluru, Nandini had big dreams and aspired to be a doctor. But destiny had other plans in store for her. Her father, who was the priest in a small village temple, could not afford her higher education and got her married after she completed her PUC. The go-getter in Nandini was not happy being a homemaker, and she tried her hand at various jobs to contribute to the family income. Nandini’s husband Srinath Shastry is also a priest, like her father, and his salary is expectedly meagre.Adversity
Nandini met with some success in the various small-scale businesses she undertook, from running a travel agency to taking up contracts for painting and home interiors work in her locality. The small amount of money the couple was earning was enough for their small family, which by then included their baby daughter, to subsist on. But misfortune visited them in the form of the untimely death of her father. The responsibility of getting her younger sister married fell on Nandini’s shoulders, which she was able to carry out, though accruing a high amount of debt in the process.
“I was happy I was able to get my sister settled as my father would have wanted. But my life had hit an all-time low and I was extremely stressed about the repayment of my loans. One of my relatives advised me to partner with Uber by on-boarding a car,” shares Nandini. She pledged her jewellery and bought a Toyota Etios, which she started running for Uber. In 2015, she came to know of the Uber Dost platform.
Uber Dost is basically a referral programme where one has to download the Dost app and refer drivers. The Dost partner is eligible for a one-time referral reward for each driver who successfully joins Uber and completes a minimum number of rides. Uber Dost was launched in India about a year ago. Similar programmes are offered in South America, South East Asia, and other Uber regions. In India, there are around 5,000 Dost partners, most of whom work part-time.
An Uber spokesperson I reached out to claims, “The safety of our riders and driver-partners is of utmost importance to us. Uber Dost refers drivers to us and each referred driver goes through rigorous background checks and training, the same as what other driver partners go through.”
Nandini understood the potential in the programme and was one of the initial people to join. She started off with research and individually called up leads. She put up posters around the city seeking drivers interested in joining Uber and soon started referring drivers full-time.
Her hard work paid off and soon started to reflect in her bank account. Till date, Nandini has referred more than 600 drivers to Uber. She has her office space and a team of four who help her out with both administrative and field work. She proudly says that today she earns more than Rs 2,00,000 each month. She has paid off all her loans and has even been able to build a house with her earnings. Nandini’s seven-year-old daughter now studies in a reputed international school.
My daughter is proud of me, gushes Nandini. She aspires to be an astronaut. I am glad that, today, I am in a position to fully support my daughter’s dreams and her education will not have to be cut short like mine was.
Nandini has only words of praise for her husband, who has always supported her in her endeavours. “My field is such that I have to interact mostly with men. But my husband has never made an issue about it due to which I have been able to fully focus on my work. I also have my mother staying with me and she looks after my daughter when I am at work. This solid support system is the reason behind my success.”
The fangirl in Nandini comes out at the mention of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. “It is my dream to meet him one day,” she says.
Her advice to women entrepreneurs is, “Educational qualifications are no bar to start a business. Be courageous and persevere and you can change your world!”