The Tata Nano, the Indian-manufactured world's smallest car, has caused heated debate since its launch was announced last...
The Tata Nano, the Indian-manufactured world's smallest car, has caused heated debate since its launch was announced last year. Some wonder if offering a cheap and in-demand car to a country of more than 1 billion people will do anything more than destroy the environment. But those detractors are missing a crucial point: How else will Indians travel?
The truth is that India's public transport system is a failure. In New Delhi, the nation's capital, buses are infrequent, overcrowded, and unsafe for women. The Metro doesn't reach the entire city. Auto-rickshaws, the preferred mode of travel for many, are mostly unavailable at night. And in Mumbai, on the overburdened local railway system, women complain of frequent harassment in the form of lewd remarks, and even molestation.But a new service may be taking a tiny step in the right direction. Forshe (pronounced "for she"), previously named Forsche, is a radio taxi service created exclusively for women, with martial-arts-trained female drivers, and around-the-clock availability. Announced in Delhi last month to much fanfare, the first 20 taxis were launched by Kiran Bedi, the first woman to serve on the Indian police force, who runs the Forshe project in the city.Twenty-five of these taxis have already been operational in Mumbai since Woman's Day 2008. Catering to the rich, the taxi tries to offer up a bit of pampering: a magazine rack, nail clippers, wet wipes, and nail polish remover. Revathi Roy, the owner and brain behind Forshe, says her goal is to have 200 cars in five Indian cities by the end of the year.
For now, the cars are few in number, and out of the reach of the common woman. Their success, though, may be to push businesses to cater to this unfulfilled market-and to prioritize the safety of women. Until that happens, the Tata Nanos will continue to be the popular solution for India's ordinary commuter.Photo of the Forshe team (left) courtesy of Ms. Revathi Roy. Photo for illustration by flickr user (cc) alex graves.