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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 May 2007, 11:58 GMT 12:58 UK
Mumbai's women-only taxi service
Monica Chadha
BBC News, Mumbai

A woman cab driver in Mumbai
Forsche is aimed at well-paid working women

Women in India's financial capital, Mumbai (Bombay), now have the option of travelling in taxis equipped and run specially for them.

The service is the brainchild of 47-year-old entrepreneur Revathi Roy and is called Forsche - Porsche spelt with an F, but pronounced 'For She', because it is for ladies only.

Ms Roy said she felt the growing female workforce in the city was not being looked after well enough and decided to start her own service that appreciated the needs of the female gender - cabs driven by women, for women.

As a frequent cab user herself, she said, she felt that regular taxis were unhygienic and had poor drivers.

Male dominated

"I am a very fussy passenger and I would get upset that the seat was not comfortable, or the driver was driving too rashly for my liking," Ms Roy told BBC News.

Revathi Roy, owner of Forshe taxi service
Revathi Roy says she is a fussy passenger

"I would also find it irritating that some drivers would stare at me from their rear-view mirror and one day, I just decided I had had enough."

The initial stages were difficult but friends and well-wishers helped her get started.

The hardest part then, and even now, is getting female drivers who are well versed with the city's geography, she says.

"Driving is still very male dominated and in Mumbai where most people travel by public transport, there are very few women with driving licences," she explains.

Ms Roy began the service in April with nine vehicles and hopes to increase the numbers in the next few months.

I hopped into one of them to see what the fuss is all about.

The white taxicabs have Forsche and their contact numbers written on the bonnet as well as on the doors on either side.

They cost about $4 an hour to hire - double the rate charged by a local cab - but these medium-sized vehicles are air-conditioned.

Freshen up

And when the car is stuck in one of Mumbai's notorious traffic jams, there is a magazine rack at the back for some light reading.

To ensure time does not have to be wasted on the trip, a bottle of nail varnish remover is provided to get rid of the remnants of that month-old manicure and nail clippers to shape fingernails.

And if you are a woman rushing from one important appointment to another, there are wet wipes and perfumed talcum powder, too, in case you need to freshen up.

Taxi union leader Anthony Lawrence Quadros
Taxi union leader Anthony Lawrence Quadros is not worried

Ms Roy said she thought of offering all this to her lady passengers because as a woman herself, she would appreciate it if someone took care of such details for her.

Some passengers say a little bit of pampering on the way to work is a great idea.

"I think all these facilities like nail polish remover, magazines for reading, all these would make travelling on jammed Mumbai roads so much more comfortable," says Shruti Gupta.

There are already more than 50,000 yellow-and-black cabs on the roads in Mumbai, but most people rely on public transport.

The taxi unions say they do not feel threatened by the new cabs.

Union leader Anthony Lawrence Quadros said the new service was targeted at an upper-class niche market while ordinary taxis cater to the masses.

"This is only for women, women and women. In that case they don't want to take any male passengers and their rate is very high," he told the BBC.

"I can call this taxi a hi-fi taxi. I don't think it will affect our trade because our taxis are mostly used by the middle-class and working-class people."


The Forsche service currently runs from 2000 to 0800 hours and only within the limits of Mumbai city.

Mumbai resident Tina Khiara
Tina Khiara has doubts about the service

Some women would like a service like this late at night for security reasons and say what Forsche is offering is rather restrictive.

One working woman, Tina Khiara, said: "I would not be able to travel in a cab that is available only during fixed hours. It will not allow me to travel with my male friends and I can't hail it as soon as I step out of home."

Forsche is still in its infancy, considering it is only a few weeks old.

But businesses, hotels and even call centres have expressed an interest in hiring these taxis for their women employees.

With more of them hitting the roads in the near future, Forsche's future seems to be on the fast track.

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