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You party, they drive
On-call drivers are now steering revellers to safety.
Around five years ago, when stopping cars and sniffing began to turn into one of the most profitable nocturnal exercises for the Mumbai Traffic Police, three youngsters named Ankur Vaid, Saurabh Shah, and Mishal Raheja decided to spoil the party a bit.
Given the series of crackdowns on drunk driving, these three party animals came up with the idea of a driver-on-call service for people like them. "Of course, they were cynical but the fact that we would have availed such a service if it existed, gave us the confidence to move forward, " says Ankur Vaid. It soon led to the birth of a service called Party Hard Drivers (PHD). "We have always been against drunk driving but when one of our close friends met with an accident in a similar situation, we decided to launch PHD, " says Vaid. The three pooled in Rs 5 lakh as seed capital and launched the company in December 2007.
One can call PHD or tweet for a driver to take you back home from wherever you are partying or take you from one party to another in the comfort of your own car. Their drivers reach the desired venue for a round trip or a drop back home within 45 minutes. The venture received an overwhelming response from people who are not just regular social butterflies but also celebrities. "Due to the city's appetite for partying, the demand for drivers is no longer seasonal, " says Vaid, whose venture started off with a team of 40 drivers and now has 150 drivers on board. Initially, drivers were provided between 10 pm and 3 am for Rs 500 with an additional overtime charge of Rs 50 per hour but now they have expanded their services to include corporate and outstation trips during the day.
Every uniformed driver on board is tested for driving skills and a thorough background check is done. Shambu Yadav, who has been a driver with Party Hard for over two years, enjoys the six-hour shift. "We received training which taught us how to greet customers, " says Yadav. Among other things, drivers are also asked not to argue with inebriated customers who lose their temper, reveals Vaid, who is now planning to launch the initiative in other major metros in India. PHD received a boost when it handled Tom Cruise's travel arrangements during his visit to Mumbai to promote Mission Impossible 4.
New Delhi's Nikhil Saigal and Shiven Madan have started a similar service in the city called Home Safe that saves car owners the bother of worring about traffic and cops. The service can be availed at any time, day or night.
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