Riches, Rags & Revolution

‘Revathi Roy is a woman who combined her passion of driving and working for women with her circumstances to create a business, unheard of, anywhere in the world.’

She is who she is, despite of what happened to her.
She is who she is, because of what happened to her.

Revathi, credited with starting Asia’s first women taxi service, Forsche, in 2007 is known today for revolutionising the logistics sector by opening it for women through her logistics start-up Hey Dee Dee. This start up skills the urban poor women as two-wheeler and four-wheeler drivers, assists them in procuring two-wheeler loans and employs them as last mile parcel delivery agents for major e-commerce companies.

Most of the captivating stories are ‘rags to riches’ stories while her story is a ‘riches to rags to revolution’ story. Revathi had a privileged childhood as she was born to a journalist father who ran a unique research journal ‘Rubber News’ which played a pivotal role in the business of the rubber industry. Marrying her college sweetheart, Siddhartha, she had a protected life where she raised three sons and offered a helping hand to her husband in his printing venture.

Revathi, being passionate about driving, participated in plenty of TSD (Time, Speed and Distance) rallies which were less about adventure, more about strategy, less about adrenalin rush and more about focussed patience.

Her Journey

Destiny started revealing her future plans as her husband’s health began to turn fragile with a coronary artery surgery in 2000. Revathi started to work as a distributor of a known windows and doors manufacturing company apart from supervising Siddhartha’s business. By 2004, while expenses were rising for a family with three young boys, her husband suddenly slipped into diabetic coma.

NITI Aayog conferred ‘Women Transforming India’ award on Revathi for her
outstanding contribution to empowering communities and transforming India in 2016.

She took a loan from an acquaintance to pay the mounting medical bills but defaulted on the payments and was sent to prison for three months. A world weary Revathi spent those three months with unskilled women who had no hope anywhere. Out on bail, Revathi decided to skill such poor urban women by teaching them how to drive and employing them as commercial drivers into her first women cab service, Forsche, run by women and for women. It started in January 2006 and her husband lost his battle with coma in the same month.

Rabble rouser Revathi persisted, drove a cab herself on Mumbai roads for ten months and Forsche soon caught attention of media and public. It not only improved the lives of hundreds of poor women but also offered a comfortable and reliable mode of transportation to women in Mumbai. A multinational auto infrastructure company entered into a strategic tie-up with her company but she soon exited the staid corporate environment.

In 2016, Revathi, after closely watching the growth prospects of Indian Logistics industry, entered the logistics segment. On March 8, 2016, she launched Hey Dee Dee, her venture to mobilise urban poor women, to skill them as two-wheeler drivers and then employ them into last mile parcel delivery service. Hey Dee Dee has opened its franchises in more than 25 cities, empowering more and more women every day.

The Honours

NITI Aayog conferred ‘Women Transforming India’ award on her for outstanding contribution to empowering communities and transforming India in 2016. She was featured on the cover page of a business magazine in 2017. Today, counted among the Top 50 Most Powerful Women of India (by Fortune magazine), Revathi is a master on ‘How to use grit and glee to galvanise your life.’

As a person, hope is the currency of her life while she has an active joy gene. Her resilience keeps a steady smile on her face.

(The writer is a known corporate speaker and has authored several best selling books.)

Words: Dr Swati Lodha

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