The dawn of ride-hailing apps has completely transformed the global taxi industry. Even in Sri Lanka, ride-hailing has quickly become a busy space with numerous parties offering different value propositions. Amidst all this, Pink Drives officially became the latest entrant into Sri Lanka’s taxi industry. But this particular service comes with a catch. Pink Drives is an all-female taxi service offering where taxis are driven by the women for the women and children, exclusively.
You might be asking yourself if Sri Lanka needs another taxi service. But Pink Drives aims to serve a specific purpose. The motivation behind the initiative is to provide a safe means of travel for women and children. In other words, the option to get a taxi without having to worry about safety or service.
Talking about the birth of Pink Drives, Founder Shohan Kulasuriya, shares the story of a close friend who had lost her husband. She was left to support herself and the kids. What’s more, traveling with the kids was no longer safe or convenient. As such, she decided to Chauffeur as a means of supporting herself and her family. So, Shohan decided to lend a hand and published a post on Facebook asking for female passengers. What followed was an overwhelming response, one that was big enough to push for a premium taxi service catered for women.
The overarching problem
It’s no secret that commuting in Sri Lanka isn’t always a pleasant experience. This is true, especially for women. A 2017 UNDPA study reports that 90% of women endure sexual harassment in public transport. Granted we have taxi services today. At the push of a button, we can simply call for a taxi of your choosing. Granted, many existing ride hailing services also employ female drivers, but they’re few in number.
As much we would like to believe we live in a far more progressive society today, the reality paints a different picture. Technology and convenience don’t always equate to safety for women, and by extension, children.
Take a simple example such as picking up your kid from school. Imagine you’re at a meeting and running late. Your kid is waiting for you after a school function. You can either cancel the meeting or book a taxi. It’s only a push of the button away. A taxi is the easiest option. But in an industry that is dominated by men, safety becomes a question. As Shohan Kulasuriya, Founder of Pink Drives asks, “Would you trust a stranger for such a task?”
Managing Director of Women in Management, Dr. Sulochana Segera’s own experience is another apt example. On the morning she attended the launch event of Pink Drives, her house got broken into. While seeing to the aftermath of the robbery early in the morning, she was to take her daughter for classes. It was either that or Dr. Sulochana had to call in a taxi. As Shohan mentioned, entrusting a stranger with your kid’s life isn’t something one would do. Particularly after such a situation.
The point is the ability to travel safely is a basic right that everyone should be granted. Sadly, this isn’t often the case for many women. Pink Drives believes it can help by offering an all-female taxi service. The simple idea is that women would be offered a safer travel alternative than what is on the market.
The Pink Drives ambition
True, introducing an all-female taxi service is not going to solve all the issues women face daily. But it does offer a helpful alternative. Particularly when that alternative means being able to travel safely without worrying about whatever hell society is going to unleash on you.
Furthermore, a female exclusive taxi service translates to more job opportunities for women. This is particularly beneficial for single mothers and women who could do well with an additional source of income. The service also means a step in the right direction in striving for a much-needed gender balance in the taxi industry.
“Lot of men feel sympathy, a lot of women feel empathy.”- Dr. Sulochana Segera
So how does one order a Pink Drives taxi? Just head on over to the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store to download the app. You can choose from budget (nano cabs), mini or car. You can also book a ride immediately or schedule for later.
With regards to the service itself, Shohan points out that the screening process follows a strict guideline. In other words, simply being a woman and being able to drive won’t be enough to become a driver for the service. Although driver applications have come in by the hundreds, Shohan notes that the current fleet is only a little under 30 now. This is so as the service can be managed at a level Pink Drives advertises itself to be.
Building on the social entrepreneurship ambitions
Of course, Shohan is no stranger to addressing social issues. He is also the founder of “ManKiwwa” app. In case you didn’t know already, ManKiwwa is Sri Lanka’s first citizen-led app. It serves as a platform for Sri Lankans to report general public issues such as garbage dumping, blocked canals, broken roads, dengue hotspots, etc. Most recently, ManKiwwa took an active role in helping Sri Lanka curb the COVID-19 situation.
For Shohan, Pink Drives is another important piece in solving Sri Lanka’s many social issues. The service is currently available in the Colombo region with expansion plans over the next few months. Talking about the current reception for Pink Drives, Shohan says that few drivers have already managed to secure permanent hires.
The all-female taxi offering clearly fills a gap in the existing industry. As to how far this movement will impact all the other pieces of the puzzle, time will tell. But for the moment, it appears “by the women, for the women” is just what the doctor ordered.