Painting the roads pink

A two-wheeler taxi service exclusively for and by women is changing the lives of semi-skilled and unskilled women by making them financially independent

Every morning, 19-year-old Noor wakes up, dons her pink uniform, puts on her helmet and rides off on her pink scooty for work. Rewinding to last year, she had no idea how to ride a cycle let alone a scooty. Now she enjoys driving and is making a living out of it.

Noor is among the 100-plus female drivers who work in Bikxie Pink, a bike, taxi and local delivery service. Catering exclusively to women commuters, the riders are all female as well. Keeping in mind the harassment of women by cab drivers and the surging prices of taxi services, the app was launched in 2016 in Gurgaon and was introduced in Delhi in 2018.

An initiative to bolster the participation of women in workforce, it employs semi or unskilled women as drivers. Noor’s father, an auto-rickshaw driver, suffers from a prolonged illness. Straitened financial conditions at home compelled her to look for work and she got in touch with Bikxie through one of the girls in her neighbourhood who also worked there. “I was terrified with the very thought of driving in the busy streets of Delhi. Even my parents were apprehensive thinking about my safety,” says Noor.

It has now been a year for Noor working as a driver and she couldn’t be happier. She laughs as she recounts her first day of driving lessons when she met with a small accident on the highway. However, she picked up within a week and since then there has been no looking back.

“Whenever I take my parents out for a ride now, they feel very proud of me. Ab lagta hain ki main ladko se bhi badhkar hoon (Now I feel that I am better than any boy),” she adds. What works best for her are the work timings, which allow her to attend college. Starting from 8 in the morning, she finishes her work by 6 pm. A student of first year in Jamia Millia Islamia evening college, Noor is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s in Urdu.

Kanchan, a 21-year-old who has been working with Bikxie since its launch, agrees that the timings, safety and payment at Bikxie are very suitable. She can’t think of working elsewhere now. “I used to work with an NGO, then switched to a goods company where the salary was sub-par and depended on the number of products I could sell. Here my income is good and helps me support my family,” she says.

Getting this job was like a dream come true for Kanchan, who completed her BA this year. From her schooldays, she wished to drive a bike one day but never got the chance until Bikxie. Working here for the past three years, she has managed to buy a scooty for herself and has also rented a flat . “There is complete safety since we are mostly around girls and conveyance has got so much easier now. It is more than just a job — it’s a way of life,” she adds.

The riders in the company are a mixed batch of women. While some of them are students, others are school dropouts, and a few of them are even married. Usha was a housewife before she started working at Bikxie Pink. “I had never even touched a cycle before. Working here has brought about a phenomenal change in my life,” says the 33-year-old. She is earning well and her husband and in-laws support her. “A lot of our financial problems have been sorted. They do not worry about my safety even if I get home a bit late,” she adds.

Ensuring a wholesome development during their training, it helps in boosting their confidence in an industry which is predominantly occupied by men. “It empowers them to work in an organised sector as opposed to working independently. Having individual bank accounts, they also enjoy perks which ensure financial security,” explains Divya Kalia, co-founder of Bikxie. The average income of the riders is around Rs 22,000 per month.

To encourage and appreciate their hard work, the company had hosted an event in July at India Gate. With the Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Ramjas Athawale, as the chief guest, the event recognised the efforts of these women and awarded some of the best performers of the year.

The event turned out to be a memorable moment for almost all the employees. “Receiving an award in front of so many prominent people and getting clicked by the media made me feel extremely proud of myself. I never imagined doing something so big in my life,” adds Noor, one of the top performers of the year.

Many of them have started getting loyal customers. “One of my clients always waits for me As she does not travel with anyone else. I pick her up almost regularly. This gives me a feeling of importance — that I am needed for my work,” says Sangeeta, who is only a few months into her job.

Bikxie Pink also provides the option of booking a ride offline. Customers can make on the spot bookings and the drivers can also book one for the customer. “Some of them notice us plying on the roads and they approach us for a ride,” she adds.

The fare is quite fair — Rs 25 for the first three kilometres, going up at the rate of Rs 5 per kilometre after that. “Two-wheelers use less fuel so the fares are quite low. Women prefer to sit behind a woman while travelling. It’s cheaper, safer and faster. What’s not to like?” Divya adds with a laugh.

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