When Mridula Ramadugu would go out partying with her friends, one of them would stay away from alcohol to ensure they could all be driven home safely. Bored with the regime they even tried hiring cabs but found it to be inconvenient and an expensive affair. Eventually, the friends arrived at a perfect solution when they came across agencies in the city that provided a driver to ferry them back home safely.
“With these services, we can party till late night and not worry about how to return home. We were always particular not to drink and drive and as a result, one of our friends always had to miss out on the fun. Cabs were also not an option as they were expensive and hard to find in the wee hours,” she says.
With rigid drunken driving checks by the traffic police in the city, many agencies have begun providing party driver services. After a night at a party, they ensure you a safe drive home at affordable prices. Many of them ensure a strict background check of drivers before hiring them.
“In 2007, we were the first to provide a service like this and we continue to survive because of the quality we provide. Our clientele generally includes celebs, who choose us to drive their high-end cars,” says Saurabh Shah, CEO and co-founder of PHD, the agency that provided drivers for Tom Cruise’s convoy of 16 BMWs when he came to the city to promote his movie Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol in 2010.
While there are no studies to determine if such services have brought down drunk driving cases, Khalid Choudhary, Director of U Party V Drive, says: “Every time a celeb is in the news for being caught for drunken driving, we notice a spate of calls.” But with the entry of cab aggregators in the market, Choudhary has noticed a dip in customers. “People opt for cabs as they are cheaper. Also, taking your own car brings the additional hassle of parking,” he says.
Shah, however, says his customer base has not been affected. “When people buy cars worth over Rs 50 lakh, they prefer to go in them than take a cab. So our customers still prefer us.”
The drivers can be booked either for pick-up and drop or just for drop. While they provide you a comfortable drive home, they themselves have a hard time. “Our drops are mostly in the late hours by when trains stop running. So, we end up taking auto-rickshaws and paying a huge sum to return home. The money is not reimbursed. Also, sometimes clients do not leave keys with us, so we cannot wait for them in the cars. Then we are harassed by policemen,” says a driver.
Renil Abraham, a media professional, who has been calling in drivers from the same agency for over a year now, said: “The same driver has been coming in every weekend for over a year now and, unconsciously, he has also become a part of our group…”
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