In 2007, Tabassum Bano moved in to Allahabad from her village in eastern UP to end her life on the Ghats. Her husband had given her talaq due to dowry issues and had kicked her out of their house. She along with her son tried finding a life in the big city but had failed miserably.
But destiny works in mysterious ways. An NGO saved her from the life on the streets and put her to work in their office. After a year, she worked up the courage and took a cycle rickshaw on rent. Rest is history, she is one of the few auto and rickshaw drivers plying on the streets of Allahabad.
“I drove the cycle rickshaw everywhere and saved every penny. I bought this Auto just a year before after raising a private loan. Today this auto is my bread and butter and I am earning well on the Ola platform. It supports my family which includes my aged mother, my brother’s wife, sister’s children and my son. Life is still tough but now we have hope,” smiles Tabassum through her tears. Her son is doing extremely well in the school run by the NGO and is very proud of her.
Tabassum’s life has been an inspiration to many. She even educates the women around her area about Ola. Many have followed her footsteps and are financially independent.
Reshma Vinod Pandav
During this time, she found menial jobs job in a packing company and started life afresh. In due course, another man came in to her life and she became pregnant with her second child. But this happiness was also short-lived when her second husband deserted her and absconded with the valuables of her house. With her parents turning their back on her and nobody to pay for food, Reshma was soon on the streets.
“There was a time I did not even have a rupee to buy milk for my baby. Then one day, I met a guy called Peter who worked for women in our colony. He counselled me and believed in me. He taught me to drive and I rented his auto for a month on a trial basis. This auto was the miracle I needed. I made 25000 rupees in two months, paid off all my debts and found a house for myself,” remembers Reshma with pride.
But Reshma’s story does not end here. She struggled to manage her little children with nobody to care for them. “I used to tie my baby on my back with my dupatta and drive. My nine-year-old daughter took care of the house with great maturity. She would make food, take care of the baby in the night and after school. Without her support I, would never have got this far,” says Reshma, “She is still my guiding light.”
Reshma today is an operator. She proved her detractors wrong. Working till dawn, Reshma today owns two autos and plans to buy a minibus. She has attached all her vehicles to the Ola platform. Her daughter is studying for her boards and is in the hostel. Her little son is going to school. With money, all her relations who turned their back have come back to her.
It has been a heroic struggle. Today the whole city of Nashik salutes her courage and we at Ola are proud to have her on our platform.
With Ola, she does both local and outstation trips but she prefers outstation as she loves to travel. Her experience with Ola has been wonderful. 90% of customers are very happy to see a woman driver and are very encouraging of her. About 10% have their doubts but after the ride sometimes tell her that she drives better than the male drivers.
Regarding what motivates her to continue driving for Ola, she replied that she began to drive just so that she wouldn’t waste time sitting at home. But now, she is motivated when she does night drives and women leaving from IT jobs are overjoyed when they see a women driver. She feels good that she can make these women feel secure and so, prefers to do more night shifts within the city.
Her family was initially scared when she decided to join Ola but today after two years, they are very proud of her. She is earning for herself and for her family in Guntur and living an independent life.
Her message for women who will join Ola as driver and for female customers: Ola is very safe and takes care of the women in the company. Anybody who wants to join as a driver can bravely and confidently join. Thanks to Ola’s technology, as long as your device is on, you have nothing to fear as they will know exactly where you are at all times making you feel secure.
Additionally, she has trained 5 homemakers to drive. They already had DLs but weren’t confident of driving. Today, they drive their kids to and from school and are more independent in their lifestyle as they don’t have to depend on someone to drive them around anymore.
The Incident: What made her trust this customer?
He seemed like he had something urgent and important going on and kept trying to make an online payment which wasn’t going through. She understood the situation and decided to spare him the hassle. Something made her think that he was trustworthy and would return the money so she decided to trust her gut.
Shobha has been driving her auto in Mysore city for 10 years and for the last one year has attached her vehicle to the Ola platform. She has seen the princely Mysore grow in to the IT stronghold with many IT companies and software personnel making it home.
After attaching her auto to Ola, Shobha’s income got double and she feels that the unique safety features it offers will encourage more women drivers. “When I started as an auto driver, it was difficult as a lady to survive in this industry. Being the sole bread winner, my earnings used to be very less because I had to decline late nights and long trips. Some men did feel threatened about their livelihood and accused me of taking away their trips,” says Sobha. With Ola, getting customers has been easy and she does not have to wait endlessly for the next trip.
Her customers include women especially from the software campus of Infosys and college girls. Many strike up a conversation and are keen to know more about her. Some are so encouraged that they tip her generously after the trip. “I make more money through tips today than ever,” smiles Sobha, revealing that she conducts over 13 trips everyday through her Ola app alone.
She feels that with platforms like Ola it is a great time to be in the business and hopes that she can provide a good education and life for her 12-year-old daughter to make her own way.