AFTER hearing horror stories of female friends and family members getting harassed and exposed to crimes while taking public transportation, full-time mother Denise Tan decided to take things into her own hands.
She created Riding Pink, a women transportation platform service which happens to be the first of its kind in the country.
“A female relative was robbed some years ago while taking public transportation.
“Friends also told me they would receive calls and text from public transport drivers and were harassed as they had their contact number.
“So all these sneaky looks, sensitive questions and outright stares are big factors that played a part for me to come up with this idea to protect women,” she said in an interview, adding that Riding Pink created more job opportunities for women.
Tan, 30, added that she spoke to many stay-at-home mothers who had said that providing public transportation was ideal as it gave them the flexibility to juggle domestic commitment while earning an extra income.
“But they wanted to choose their passengers and preferred women.
“Most full-time jobs require us to be in the office the whole day. For a mother, it is a little difficult due to separation anxiety and family commitments while some would have left the workforce for some time and found it difficult to get a job after that,” she said.
Tan said Riding Pink started recruiting women drivers in September via Facebook and the number of drivers increased within three weeks.
It was officially launched on Oct 10.
“The response has been overwhelming from the public. From Nov 21 to 27, we recorded about 100 trips.
“Meanwhile, recurring trips on weekdays of those going to school and work is also increasing,” she said, adding that they currently had slightly over 100 drivers.
“We have 60 full-time drivers and 40 part-time drivers who would drive after work and on weekends,” she said.
Tan said their drivers have also been asked to transport schoolchildren to and from school.
“Some parents will request for the same driver to pick up their children. If they fix every Wednesday at 1pm and if the driver is agreeable we will book that slot for her.
“If the driver has urgent matters, we will find a replacement for her,” she said.
Tan also said that the women drivers could transport young boys, aged 16 and below.
At this point, Tan said they were still matching drivers manually.
“Firstly, we will either get a message via personal message to Riding Pink’s Facebook or through Whatsapp asking for a ride.
“Then we will ask for the pick-up and drop-off points and get back to them with a fare,” she said.
If a person confirms that they want a ride, they will send the details of the driver to the passenger and details of the passenger to the driver.
Tan said the requirements for the drivers include having a valid driving licence and ensuring the car they used is not more than nine years old and is insured.
When asked how they would differentiate themselves from the Uber and GrabCar service, she said “we wouldn’t say we are the same.”
“They provide on-the-spot services whereas we offer pre-booking services.
“We appreciate our riders sending in their requests a day before but sometimes we get a request five hours before. We will try our best to match a driver to them,” she said.
Tan sees Riding Pink as complementing ride-sharing services rather than as a competitor, adding that Uber and GrabCar were bigger players in the market.
“Some of our drivers are part-time drivers on other platforms as well.
“If there are any bookings from us, they will drive for us.
“But in between, they would take up requests from other platforms,” she said.
Although the Riding Pink mobile app will be ready by next year, Tan said they will continue receiving bookings through Facebook and calls especially those who may not be well-versed in the technology.
“We still want to give a human touch to our service. So they can still speak to us and personalise their bookings on a regular basis,” she said
Riding Pink is a registered company with the Companies Com-mission of Malaysia (SSM) and is not registered with the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD).
“However if the government wants us to register, we are willing to comply,” she said.
Tan, who takes customers as well, said Riding Pink’s long term objective is to be a partner in the transportation ecosystem in the country that is sustainable.
Flexibility to mothers
Being a mother is already tough and what more when you are a single mother.
Elina Ariffin, a mother of two, said she started as a driver for Riding Pink in mid-September after she read about it on Facebook.
“There is flexibility of time for me as a mother where I am able to earn some money on top of being a homemaker,” she said.
The 47-year-old said the extra income helps her pay for the language courses that she took at night.
“It also keeps me occupied and allows me to help other women,” she said.
Elina said her first rider was an elderly lady who had safety as top priority and today was her regular passenger.
She added she could earn RM500 in three weeks.
“I wanted to try to be a driver with other ride-sharing platforms but I heard that there were passengers who refused to pay,” she said.
To ensure her safety, she said she always ensured her doors were locked and there was also a dashboard camera there to record the routes in case of accidents and robbery.
“Also, if we are stopped by any strangers, I have the camera as evidence,” she said.
A full-time housewife, Ruzila Mohd Khirhadi, 51, said she has been a driver for a month now.
“I can do it while my 16-year-old daughter is in school and at the same time be a mother to her while earning some income,” she said.
Ruzila said she drives for a few hours a day and also have regular customers.
“I know who my passengers are, making it easier to work,” she said, adding that she does not drive at night.
“I also make sure my emergency contact is easily accessible on screen while driving,” she said.
Ruzila plans to be a Riding Pink driver for a few years to earn money to pay for her backpacking trips overseas.
Female passengers feel safer
Lee See May can go home after happy hours with her friends feeling safer now.
The 30-year-old said she has ordered a ride with Riding Pink a few times.
“I used to use Uber and GrabCar but unfortunately they do not come to my area in Subang during peak hours,” she said.
The strategic planner said she found Riding Pink to be reliable and punctual.
“I found the fares to be more reasonable too. I like to use it whenever I’m out for drinks with my friends and go home feeling safe,” she said.
Another frequent rider Sumaira Siddiky, 29, said she was comfortable knowing she will get a woman driver.
“The drivers are friendly.
“I also have my regular drivers and the familiarity has made me more at ease.
“The fare is lower by at least RM2 compared to other platforms,” she said.
Passenger Rofina Tam, 65, said she has used Riding Pink at least 10 times.
“I am particular about punctuality and the drivers are always there when I’m ready to get on which is fantastic.
“Other drivers from other platforms have lost their way to my house and I had to cancel the ride a few times,” she said.
Those who want to book with them, can Whatsapp 016 272 2554 or send them a personal message via their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ridingpink