Startup and Entrepreneur
A nation is likely to suffer from the situation of unemployment when job resources are less in number than the people applying for it. This, in turn, has a bad impact on the economy. One of the best models of the economy is a result of an increase in the number of ventures in business enterprise, entrepreneurship and business undertakings as these eventually increase job resources for the individuals.
I had attended a workshop on entrepreneurship. The speaker was a successful businessperson who asked the young audience about their ambitions in life. Most of the people talked about getting a prestigious job like being an IAS, IPS or CA, etc. Very few of them talked about startups and entrepreneurship.
But the more surprising thing was that on being asked, how are they going to accomplish it they were all blank and inconsiderate. In fact, very few of them actually had any business idea with them. That meant that most of them were likely to withdraw at a particular point of time. And no one had given a thought to the turnover they could generate after 5 years of starting – the absence of target. The failed business and ventures are mostly the result of bad planning and being inconsiderate. But once you are clear about your business idea, have set a target and are ready for risks. You are good to go, make changes, and lead a business.
Here in this article, we will share a success story of a composite women entrepreneurship and social enterprise. A business idea that was heavily criticized, questioned, and thought to be stupid and was mocked at. But eventually, it turned out to be one of the best business models with an objective of advocating women equality and providing remunerative livelihood to poor and needy women.
Women Taxi Business
Women on Wheels is a Business and Social Enterprise that aims at training needy and poor women to learn professional driving skills and employing them in all female chauffeur services. The programme also spreads awareness about their rights and inculcates a sense of confidence, proud, and dignity in them.
The founder and the pioneer of this idea Meenu Vadera had faced challenges and risks at initial. But now her enterprise is not only globally recognized but also has become an inspiration for many. The enterprise has also received several awards for its innovative business model and making significant impacts on the lives of many women.
Before the introduction of women on wheels, there were no professional female chauffeurs in North Delhi. Of course, the idea was unique and new and so many people doubted its successful execution.
Risk factor – It’s all about attitude
There were lots of jokes made on women drivers and their capabilities. When Miss Meenu had started wherever she presented her idea, she would have people say, “Oh, so you are going to teach women to drive. Make sure you teach them how to park!” But Miss Meenu had already made her mind that she will convert her idea to challenge and alter the public perceptions of women participation in the booming public transportation sector into a reality.
Miss. Vadera chose to train women in driving because she knew that driving can make them feel empowered. Because if you become a driver you have to become a creature of the road. You claim your public spaces. It’s often lack of mobility that keeps women restricted to where they are.
The Idea of Women on Wheels
Miss. Vadera is a social worker and feminist. She had organized several campaigns working with many NGOs. But she knew campaigning alone will not bring real life changes to the lives of the people. She thought of working on this. She thought to raise the income of the targeted people by engaging them to the market practices of skill development and servicing. This thought had given rise to the idea of Women on Wheels.
Trainees of the Programme
The beneficiaries of the programme are women. Mainly in the age group of 18 – 35, living in slums and resettlement colonies in cities with meager economic capital and limited employment choices. Most of them are either unemployed or work at low wages in professions typically assigned to women. Before completing class 12, many trainees had dropped out of formal education. Many were not out of their neighborhood and many lived in abusive relationships.
The Business model of Miss Vadera
• The programme operates as a hybrid social enterprise. The women on wheels, a non-profit programme helps give training to the women to drive cabs and develop other skills to become eligible to get a private chauffeur placement under Sakha Consulting Wings Pvt Ltd – a profit based social enterprise. Sakha offers well-trained women drivers and safe transport to women clients. Sakha’s idea is Cabs for ‘Women by Women’.
•The Sakha Consulting Wings Pvt Ltd places women chauffeur on long term contracts, with a 24/7 hire service, and for short term chauffeur hire. Both partners are the entities of the Azad Foundation founded by Miss. Vadera. They also have other government, non-government, and business partners that facilitate the training programme.
•After the registration, it takes 6 to 8 months to give the training to the women. They are provided citizenship document and accident insurance. An account is opened for them. Then they obtain a uniform and a mobile phone. They are also trained in car repairing and maintenance. They are made to understand the car, its parts, roads, routes and, maps. Teaching them self-defense, English speaking, first aid and other skills for their overall development.
Impacts on the personal lives of women
Women in many families were merely extra income earners. But now they are the source of mainstream income in their family. They now hold a dignified place in family, society and have achieved economic liberty. The training module also works for achieving the objectives of Sustainable Development Goal-5. Family members are also engaged in providing moral support through awareness campaigns. They are facilitated with the network of other drivers and provided counselors to maintain good mental health and for ensuring that they can communicate if any sort of domestic violence comes up. Women on wheels is not only making impacts on professional life but also on the personal life of the women.
Giving back to society
Women on Wheels has been actively participating in social campaigns. ‘One billion rising campaign, ‘Say No to Corruption’ and ‘I will go out’ campaigns are few of them.
Social Enterprise: More than a Business
Women associated with Women on Wheels have gained much more than material realities. The business model has also formed a New India.
•“I LIKED SELF-DEFENSE THE BEST. WE WERE TAUGHT HOW NOT TO TOLERATE ANY NONSENSE ON THE ROAD. THOUGH I HAVE NOT HAD A NEED TO USE IT, I AM SURE I WILL BE ABLE TO PUNCH IF REQUIRED!” – Madhu Pawar of Jaipur has said.
•In an event where Miss. Vadera was a speaker, a female college professor told her that she has hired a Sakha cab. Her male colleagues asked her if she is not afraid to use Sakha cab during the night. What will happen if the cab got damaged between the ride? How will she manage to go home? Or what will she do, if she faces any problem, as both of them are women?
She then proudly replied to them that her chauffeur hire is more reliable than any other transport. As her Sakha driver is trained in self-defense, she is able to protect both of them if such a thing happens. And she is also trained in maintenance of the vehicle, she understands all the parts and is able to fix the vehicle if any problem occurs. And above all, it is the most friendly cab, they share mutual trust, it is more reassuring to have the company of the same sex during a ride. After which all her female colleges also started using Sakha cabs.
•“IF SOMEONE SAYS ANYTHING NASTY TO ME NOW, I KNOW HOW TO GIVE IT BACK TO THEM. EVEN IF ANOTHER WOMAN IS GETTING HARASSED… EVEN IF SOMETHING HAPPENS AT 12 O’ CLOCK AT NIGHT IN THESE LANES, I WILL JUMP OUT TO GO SEE” – says Anju.
The social entrepreneur has really impacted different lives in different ways. It has brought many women closer to each other. It has not only brought economic changes but also social changes. Currently, in India, we are facing the situation of unemployment. This is because here people are raised with the mental make-up to compete for the job positions and not to lead a business, start-up, and enterprise themselves. The main reason behind the reluctance to start a business or entrepreneur is the risk factor.
‘But the major risk with your life and nation’s economy is not taking the risk’
Go ahead, be a leader not just a worker!