A safer woman pools her car even with men; changing trends in commute

A survey of 5,465 women car poolers in 10 cities revealed 60% riders associate carpooling as an option that is relatively safer than public transport, subject to who their co-passengers are.
In December 2012, twenty-three-year-old Nirbhaya was gang-raped and fatally injured in a Delhi bus meant for chartered services. This not only led to questioning of sexual assault laws in the country but many Indian families also started to worry about the way a woman commutes, especially if she is in a different city.

In these eight years, concerns surrounding their commuting may still be there in the minds of dear ones, but working women have changed the way they travel about. Increasingly, women have started using pooling services for private cars, taxis and buses. They are even offering their own cars for pooling not just to other women but also men. Use of technology has brought about the change in safety perception, primarily because app-based services allow verification of co-passengers that helps in building trust and friendships, and even facilitate networking.

A survey of 5,465 women car poolers in 10 cities revealed 60 per cent riders associate carpooling as an option that is relatively safer than public transport, subject to who their co-passengers are. Eighty four per cent of women feel that carpooling eases the commute and reduces confinement to public transport. Their carpooling experience provides them with the freedom to easily travel to work and back, without any hassle of public transportation.  

The survey was undertaken by Pune-based start-up sRide that offers car pool services. Sixty per cent of the two million registered users of sRide are women but only around 15 per cent registered car owners are women since ownership of cars among women is low, Lakshna Chaddha Jha, chief executive officer and co-founder, sRide, told Business Standard.

The survey found that “freedom” was the key for commuting choices among women. Amit Singh, CEO and co-founder, Shuttl, a bus aggregation service, also says women inherently seek both safety and personal space while making transport choices. “Freedom to move is essential to access economic opportunities. At times, inadequate mobility alternative forces them to settle for lesser opportunities that eventually affects their career progression,” said Singh.

Shuttl, in fact, has seen the number of women users rising more than three times in two years to 27,750 in 2019. The percentage of women in their overall customer base also rose to 41 per cent from 37 per cent in 2017.

Jha said 70 per cent of the rides that are arranged through sRide platform are repeat car pooling. “Women, in fact, felt more comfortable with persons from their own industry.” Forty four per cent of the women surveyed by them use pre-paid cabs less than 10 times a month, signifying the increasing preference for a more cost-effective and convenient commute.

The quality of conversations and not getting bored during the journey is important to many women riders, but not a majority of them. “However, in some cities like Mumbai and Kolkata, those who use a cab service more frequently (more than 10 times a month), conversations tend to become a more important aspect of carpooling (for more than 60 per cent of this segment of riders). We could infer that there is a positive relation between the quality of conversations and frequency of cab rides taken, as a desire to evade boredom becomes stronger when one has to take more rides,” said the survey.

The survey was conducted across 10 cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Thiruvanthapuram. Most of the trends were similar across all the cities surveyed, implying that sentiment towards carpooling, conversations, and gender equality were largely geography agnostic.

Seventy-five per cent of riders feel that networking/work-related conversations are the most frequent during their carpooling journeys. Current affairs stand second in terms of frequently discussed topics, with 58 per cent of riders citing it as a popular choice of conversation. This trend is similar in all cities, with the exception of Kolkata, where it appears that equal weightage is given to all topics of conversation.

Among other topics discussed were amazing food places and lifestyle. Around 79 per cent of riders associate flexibility at work and home as a key driving factor for gender quality. A significant majority (about 58 per cent) also feel that enabling women initiatives and entrepreneurship could be a key contributor to a gender equal world.

CAR POOL: WHAT WOMEN LIKE TO TALK

• 75% Networking /work related 
• 58% Current affairs 
• 44% Pop culture  

WHO MENTORED THEM

65%: Mother
30%: Woman Manager/Boss
5%: Others 



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