June As Busy As Peak Season Of Dec, Say Firms In The Business

What could possibly persuade Mumbaikars to hand over keys of their precious four-wheelers to total strangers?
A spot of traffic in the rains might force some to hire temporary drivers. A few might hand over the steering wheel to a temporary driver so they could concentrate on finishing that urgent task on their way to work. Of late, the ones who love to party also seem to have got into the habit of booking drivers to avoid tangles at police nakabandis that are visible again after the Eastern Freeway drunk driving case.

Whatever the reason, rent-a-driver companies in the city say they have their hands full with orders throughout the day .Companies such as Party Hard Drivers say June is likely to be as busy as December, which is their peak season. If they got around 1,600 orders in June 2014, the company has got around 1,000 as of June 15.“There have been more calls since the Salman Khan case verdict,“ says Saurabh Shah, CEO of Party Hard Drivers.

A majority of calls on weekends are for pickups from Lower Parel, Bandra and pockets of SoBo where popular night clubs and pubs are located. Requests for drivers start after 8pm and go on till 2am.

Monsoon is the time when driver business is dull as Mumbaikars take a rain check on outings, especially on high-tide days. But not this time around. “We are getting more calls for a Temporary drivers, Mr.Manzoor Shaikh Owner of DriveronHire.com. “More than celebrities, we get more calls when regular people get caught by police,“ says Shaikh. Both these companies started operations in 2007, soon after the government first started cracking down on drunk driving in Mumbai.

For most users, outsourcing driving is a matter of convenience. “It is easier than booking a cab,“ says Shreyasi Basu, an entrepreneur. She feels safer to get back home late at night in her own car as she has been using Drivers In India for her day trips. “ After I started my own business, I have to travel from my home in Thane. I started hiring drivers because trains are not safe or convenient,“ says Basu.

Travellers can sit back but drivers have a tough job, especially at night. Kamlesh Jha says he doesn’t get into a conversation with clients or react to provocations. “Often clients sleep and I take them to their doors and return the car key ,“ says Jha, who has been with Party Hard for the last five years. Once Jha picked up a sozzled client from a star hotel at 2am, bought water for her on the way , and helped her to her high-rise flat in SoBo with the help of the building security guard.

The demand for drivers is set to rise with increasing traffic snarls and a fastpaced life. Vishal Kokate, who started HireDriverMumbai.com a few months ago, says on an average, there are around 400 people looking for drivers every day in Mumbai online.