Off the top of your head (no looking at the receipts in your wallet) – the last time you took a taxi cab, what was the name of the company that operated the car? Don’t worry if you don’t know – you represent the vast majority of passengers – as taxis are the kind of service that has become a commodity across the world. Ubiquitous. Standardized. Necessary. But undifferentiated.
Commodity is convenient for the user, but from the provider perspective, it is a keyword for an unattractive industry. Unless you’re an entrepreneur. Who takes the existing situation as only a starting point and as something that can be changed based on the things they have available and the actions they take. Lets see what this kind of forward thinking looks like once its in motion.
Those of you living in, or traveling to the city of London, have certainly enjoyed the iconic black city cab. Distinctive only in its chunky bulbous shape, it represents the commodity of the cab in the UK. But Nicko Williamson is driving change. A function of his own environmental and aesthetic principles, Williamson launched Climatecars in 2007. The company offers a fleet of hybrid Toyota Prius taxis that generate the lowest CO2 footprint of any UK livery and are equipped with bike racks, ready to rescue stranded bikers with eco-friendly motor transportation. On the leather seats, passengers trapped in traffic will find copy of the latest Conde Nast magazine and Bleu mineral water, should they need a little distraction. Williamson achieved revenues of £255,000 in his first year, a number that has increased tenfold by 2010. And at the ripe old age of 27, Williamson just won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.
Just for Her
At roughly the same time, halfway across the world in Mumbai India, Revathi Roy was facing a personal crisis. An avid rally driver who been racing cars for three decades, her husband fell into a coma in 2007 and she had no job to support her three children. Her solution? Use her passion for driving to start ForShe, a taxi service specifically for women passengers. On strong demand from the women working in large cities in India, Roy has expanded to 65 cabs across Mumbai and Delhi, delivering convenience and confidence to tens of thousands of female passengers. But that’s not the last stop. As much as the venture serves the needs of lady commuters, it has also grown as a reflection of Roy’s starting position, serving employees as effectively as customers. In 2008, Roy started her second venture, a training academy for women who wanted to work for her as taxi chauffeurs. The academy teaches driving safety, first aid, and the martial arts so that her employees can manage every aspect of safety while driving for ForShe. Roy even brokers micro-loans and arranges sponsorships into the academy for women who seek the same thing she enjoys from ForShe – income and personal independence.
Creating the Road Ahead
Both Roy and Williamson show us that it is the unique hand of the entrepreneur -starting with the unique set of things they have available and then taking action – which creates the road we later drive on. So the next time you hop into the back seat of a cab (www.climatecars.com in the UK, www.forshe.co.in in India), consider what it would look like if you were in the drivers seat.
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