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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Inspiration -Revathi Kulkarni Roy – the ‘force’ behind cab services for women by women in India


If Shah Rukh Khan’s dialogue “Itni shiddat se maine tumhe paane ki koshish ki hai … ki har zarre ne mujhe tumse milane ki saazish ki hai (I have sought you with so much passion that the entire universe has conspired to bring you closer to me)” ever made sense in real life then it definitely does in Revathi Kulkarni Roy’s case.Revathi’s passion manifested in multiple ways and primary among them was ForShe (pronounced for-she), the first women taxi service in Asia, started in 2007, followed by similar initiatives such as Viira in 2010 and the most recent one being HeyDidi, a women-only platform focussed on providing delivery be it food, medical reports to even groceries, via an app.

Awarded the ‘Women Transforming India Award’ in 2016 by NITI Aayog, Revathi, at 56, still enjoys driving, and as a seasoned driver and entrepreneur has weathered heavy storms.Revathi’s life has revolved around cars. When she was a teen, very few people had cars, and if they did, it was mostly an Ambassador or a Fiat. Revathi’s father, who owned an Ambassador, allowed his daughter to drive it a month after she learnt driving. “In hindsight, I feel my dad made a very bold decision. Since I had lost my elder brother in a car crash, it must have been a tough choice for my father but he never stopped me from driving.”

Other than participating in rallies and working in the family business for seven years Revathi decided to turn to entrepreneurship. She used her driving skills to launch ForShe. In 2007 on March 8, International Women’s day, ForShe was launched in Mumbai with just three cabs. “Our aim was to empower women to become commercial drivers but also to empower them with a skill.”
Two months before ForShe was launched Revathi lost her husband. This was a tough period for Revathi, but even in the face of this loss she ploughed on.

At a time when there was no cab service at all for women, ForShe provided a 90-day course in which lessons on self-defense were taught. “The girls who enrolled were from BPL (below poverty line) families. “The only incentive that we could provide was that your life can change if you learn and skill yourself; your economic condition can improve. And they used to be very excited about this idea. Also, we actually did it. It was not just on storyboard; we executed it,” says Revathi
Over nine years, more than 1,000 girls have been trained across Mumbai and Delhi through the various ventures Revathi has started or been a part of.

According to her, maintaining mental strength is the most important aspect that one needs to possess when treading into the unknown.“If you are mentally strong and maintain a never-say-die attitude then you can weather all storms.”

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