We’ve all been there—walked through Jaipur’s tiny by lanes in the Old City, marveled at the splendid architecture and imagined ourselves to be royalty while looking down from Amer Fort. One step outside the pretty palaces, though, you’re hounded by overeager tour guides whilst dodging tourist traps with pricey souvenirs. Thanks to Pink City Rickshaw Co, this is about to change.
“There’s no better way to see a city than with a local. So who better to drive you around?” asks founder Radhika Kumari, who, with her team has been working to identify women from underprivileged backgrounds and teach them how to ride e-rickshaws and conduct tours of the Old City. Pink City Rickshaw has identified 38 women till now to train and map tours with. Aged between 18 and 45, these women hail from varied socio-economic backgrounds and are fighting stereotypes to hit the road. “One of these women came to us because both her husband and son are rickshaw drivers and she wanted to show them she could drive one too. Four Muslim women who used to traditionally wear a burka are now shedding the veil in order to comfortably conduct tours and ride these rickshaws,” says Kumari.
“Many of the women were incredibly shy when we first approached them, but now, they’re interacting with tourists and foreigners and taking them around Jaipur with pride,” she adds.
Kumari is using her background in the development and travel sectors, as well as her business acumen, to achieve something the city has never seen before. Pink City Rickshaw has curated three tours : heritage, crafts and shopping. The heritage tour spans the Old City—from Hawa Mahal and Johari Bazaar to Chaura Raasta; the craft tour includes interactions with Jaipur’s master crafts people; and the shopping tour winds through the best spots for the city’s block-printed accessories and handcrafted souvenirs. “Some of the stops on this tour have been suggested by the women themselves. We’re keeping it as authentic as possible. The women suggested a stop at Maniharon Ka Raasta for lacquer bangles, and we’ve added it in.” The group is also open to customized tours, based on specifications drawn up by their patrons. “Recently, we did an early-morning tour of the city for a couple who have been here a few times and wanted to avoid the crowds. We took them to the flower market and to the City Palace for the morning arati,” Kumari tells us. Pink City Rickshaw has tied up with five-star and boutique hotels across Jaipur, such as 28 Kothi and ITC Rajputana, from where guests can book tours and rides.
Pink City Rickshaw is run by ACCESS Development Services, a not-for-profit organisation. It has partnered with Jaipur-based designer Ayush Kasliwal to help design attractive, eco-friendly rickshaws. The rickshaws are kitted out with a stylish collapsible canopy, ergonomically designed seats, city maps, and a cellphone-charging station. They can go up to a maximum speed of 30km/hr.
Pink City Rickshaw has a three-pronged approach. The idea is to empower local women, better their livelihoods, and create a fun way for outsiders to see the city. “By the end of two years, we aim to empower 200 women and have them run the company,” says Kumari. Talk about shifting gears.