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An attack on a woman in a cab led Vandana Suri to start TaxShe, a cab service that uses women drivers to meet the travel needs of women and children. Vandana Suri tells us all about her work!
When I meet Vandana Suri, the Founder of TaxShe, she introduces her work saying, “We are a women driver and women-cab organization in Bangalore, specializing in children pickup to and fro school, as well as office-going women.”
A venture that is 3.5 years old now, she describes it as being in “pretty stable” shape now, and we settle down for an interesting chat on her journey so far in this unusual space, and her vision for the future.
How did this idea to begin TaxShe emerge? Where did you get the inspiration from?
Vandana Suri: I think this idea came from myself, from being a woman. I have been an investment banker, and there was a lesser-known rape incident in Delhi (not the Nirbhaya rape incident), which took place in a Delhi cab. The headlines, in the newspapers of that day, said: “If there was a woman driving me, this would not have happened”. And that line triggered the woman inside me. That’s when I decided that someone had to do something about it, and that person should be me. That’s really where the idea for TaxShe came from.
Among the previous companies that you have worked for, you have worked in the automobile sector. Did that play into you starting your own car company?
Vandana Suri: No, not really. In Whitefield Honda (a well known car dealership in Bangalore), I was the Accounts Head in my section, and I had absolutely no idea about sales, or cars. Everything was only inventory as far as I was concerned. No, this was not about cars. This was a lot about women and children being safe. It’s about us people, being safe.
How have the reactions been, to TaxShe, after you started it? (Particularly two years after the company’s inception)
Vandana Suri: I have been a chartered accountant; I have done banking and sales all my life. I don’t think I can get any more attention than I get now, for being a taxi driver! At the end of the day, I am contributing to business, to the safety of kids and women. Imagine sitting in office, and constantly being worried about your child. We do make your life a little easier. We bring peace into people’s lives, into parents’ lives!
Do you think that support from women today, matters more than support from a man?
Vandana Suri: You’re absolutely right. I have personally seen a lot of women bring down other women. I personally feel that the remarks that you make are a reflection of your own feelings and emotions. On the other hand, I think that if there are 50 percent women trying to pull me down, the other 50 percent are really giving me their whole-hearted support. I can see that shift in society, where women are helping each other. Somebody believing in you makes for a lot of change.
On the TaxShe website, you have this blog that talks about underprivileged women and how TaxShe has provided them with an opportunity to do what they want to do. So how did that come about?
Vandana Suri: Whether you are underprivileged, poor, rich, or not, it doesn’t make a difference. When these underprivileged women are given training, they are getting out of their comfort zone. She is sitting in a car that she has probably never sat in, before. I am improving her self-worth, and giving her a good time to do what she wants. To be very honest, she is having a ball at her work. She is having a great time, she is among kids filled with joy and laughter. At home, she is driven around for work, and she is treated as a slave by her family.
On the other hand, the parents of these children know that they are sending their children into the right hands, no matter how much income they earn. They are giving respect to this woman, and acknowledging that she has taken a step in a new direction, which keeps children safe.
As a young woman, I would like to ask you about what we as women can do, when we receive comments that are very derogatory in nature, like ‘Oh, you’re so fat. Why don’t you lose some weight?’ How can we ensure that people see us in a different light?
Vandana Suri: I do agree with you on the fact that body shaming happens. We have these weight-loss sessions, and pamphlets recommending this and that for us. Yes, I did face this all my life. With TaxShe, the place that I have created for myself, everyone’s looking at my achievements. I think this is exactly what is going to work for other women as well! There has to be some value about you that is beyond the physical looks of things. When you have created your own identity, looks don’t matter anymore! I feel that that is the best way to resolve things, especially in society.
Even in our own families, we often get a remark saying: “Why are you doing this job? Do something else, no? Everyone’s doing this, you also do this.” When you’re just running behind just money, it’s very different from what you like doing, your passion, and also making money out of pursuing your passion.
So, now we’ll play a fun Rapid Fire, which has some cool, fun questions. Here we go!
If you had a particular role model to look up to, who would it be?
Vandana Suri: Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, definitely. I would definitely want to meet her one day.
If you had to pick a couple of movies that you would want to watch again and again, which movies would you pick?
Vandana Suri: Hindi – Taal, Phas Gaya Re Obama, Raazi and in English – Turner and Hooch, Fault in Our Stars
Your favourite actor and actress of all time is?
Vandana Suri: Amitabh Bachchan and Julia Roberts
Your favourite genres are?
Vandana Suri: Horror and comedy
Idli or dosa?
Vandana Suri: Idli
Chicken biryani or Veg Pulao?
Vandana Suri: Chicken biryani
After my enjoyable hour with Vandana Suri, I left thanking her for her time, and hoping to be back in a few years to see TaxShe operation in an even bigger and better style!
Image is of Vandana talking at Breaking Barriers, the annual flagship event for women in business, presented by Women’s Web
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I am a student at Mount Carmel College, currently pursuing a course in Communication Studies.
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