The business is the solution. On My Own is a business that enables differently abled to learn to drive on their own. It is a business solution that promotes mobility independence and helps people with disabilities to feel more connected to the world around them. This innovation helps solve Good Health and Well-Being by gaining a new perspective, Decent Work and Economic Growth by opening new doors of employment, and help Reduce Inequalities.
Nitin Singh Bundela
Goa Institute of Management
Dr Anita Sharma, Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at IIM Amritsar, an Alumni of IIM Indore started On My Own with the motto “THE ONLY DISABILITY IN ONE’S LIFE IS HAVING LOW CONFIDENCE!” and “ANYBODY CAN DRIVE!”. It serves people who experience reduced mobility due to disability. This primarily includes people who are suffering from polio, paraplegia or quadriplegia, hand or leg amputation, and any other disability.
The project provides individuals with disability opportunities for driving training. This includes:
a). Vehicle driving training sessions on customized cars (hand control, steering knobs, left foot acceleration on automatic transmission car)
b). Maneuvering shifting on a car’s driving seat (with or without sliders)
c). Vehicle/ Equipment fitting consultation (with vendors and suppliers)
She believes that On My Own is your way of freedom. Just because you are disabled, doesn’t mean you can’t drive. Now, driving won’t be an unfulfilled dream in anyone’s life.
On My Own is a “passion project” for Anita. As a child, she rode a bike with support wheels. When she outgrew that, she shifted to a car, a Maruti Alto, which she got modified so that her hands, instead of her feet would control the accelerator, brake, and clutch. There was a lever on the dashboard which can be pushed and pulled according to her speed requirement. It was a customization done by Rajesh Sharma, a mechanic in Jaipur. This was the car on which she learnt how to drive and became independent. Rajesh has modified close to 3000 cars to suit the need of the differently-abled who cannot control pedals with their feet.
His device comes in a couple of combinations for people with various lower-limb disabilities. He delivers the service at people's doorsteps. The gearbox is left untouched, and the levers are attached underneath the steering wheel. The accelerator is much like a bike's and hence easy to handle.
Anita had a chance meeting with her role model while she was pursuing her PhD.
Rajesh Sharma was visiting her campus with some of his friends, and one of them asked Anita if she could teach her how to drive in her car. It was all very informal, but that's how she began teaching. This incident gave her the idea to research driving schools that could help out differently-abled students. She called about 2000 of them across the country only to be left severely disappointed. Driving schools need a special license to train the differently abled, and none of these schools had it. In fact, the situation was so bad that the first one in India only started in 2013. Anita was already teaching some of her friends and acquaintances in her own car. And when her search for professional driving schools was inconclusive, she decided to take matters in her own hands and On My Own, a driving school based in Amritsar was born, which teaches differently-abled people on both cars with manual and automatic gears.
On My Own vehicle modifications and conversions are from authorized mechanics, which are 8 across India currently. These mechanics are approved by the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) due to which individuals can avail benefits in terms of a 50% waiver of the Regional Transport Office (RTO) fee and also licence and insurance at subsidized costs. The idea of the organization benefits and helps individuals with disability to be independent and is quite an innovative one.
To extend support to the families and friends of people with disabilities, Anita came up with the idea of Coffee Conversations wherein she engages them personally with inspiration and awareness through ‘you resonate with me’ community meetups. In many personal interactions with families and friends of disabled individuals, she found a lack of ‘community engagement’ and platform to inspire and ignite each other.
In addition to this, On My Own Homestay is a newly added service, launched in October 2019. This innovative initiative helps people with disabilities traveling to Jaipur from far off places around India to stay and learn the skill of driving with taking a tour of the beautiful city.
Dr Anita Sharma believes that words have power. She helps disabled people to get a new perspective on life and get benefited by having a coffee with her. Anita believes that the first obstacle for the differently-abled is more mental than physical. Lack of confidence and acceptance are two major shortcomings that stop her students from working to the best of their ability. So, while her primary job is to teach them how to drive, in many cases, she also helps them be mentally strong about this change in lifestyle. Moreover, if the disability is acquired because of a road accident, the students and their loved ones are warier of relearning how to drive because they now associate the activity with the tragedy. Accepting disability as normal is a bigger challenge for these families and individuals.
It was the snapshot of joy when Dr Anita's craving of sitting in a vehicle's driving seat worked out on her 28th birthday celebration: 8 October 2009. A large portion of us recollect those moments when everything appears to be difficult to acquire, however, for anybody, switching the gear with a standard grip is difficult to overlook. It was the ground-breaking dream achieved with the help of her family. Not every person is lucky to have a mother who knows driving. She is the person who taught her to drive.
As she recalls how liberated and glad she felt driving without anyone else. “It seems like an ordinary thing since anybody can do it. Indeed! Anybody.” Be that as it may, an idea of vehicle driving is arduous for somebody who has reduced mobility like her.
She was affected by polio when she was hardly half a year old. Ever since then, she has reduced mobility in her legs. However, it was never an obstruction for her. The idea of driving originates from her adoration for maneuvering, the boundaries that she has confronted while voyaging, and the motivations she saw around the globe.
During her college years in 2009, she acquired the vehicle and retrofitted it with hand control. Driving a vehicle was positively significant not only for her self-assurance but it also made her free and upbeat. Not a day passes by that she is not thankful for the open door that driving has provided her.
In the wake of paying attention to her driving abilities, many individuals with or without diminished mobility approached her on the off chance that she could enable them to learn vehicle driving. She would causally answer them to locate a decent driving school. Be that as it may, lamentably, they never discovered one since it doesn't exist. A thought crossed her mind, as a professor who teaches entrepreneurship to students, "why can’t she be the one to teach driving and make a disabled person independent and happy?". There are more than billions of individuals living with a handicap. Many can bear the cost of a vehicle, however, they must be subject to others to head out. That’s how she commenced the journey.
She equipped herself to take driving classes. Her aunt likewise needed her to teach her driving; she shared her experience of driving educators who typically get aggravated while instructing. Apart from helping differently-abled, she also started focusing on elderly women.
And with the help of her family, she began her journey from a two-wheeler to ‘On My Own’. Since then, she has become a certified and trained professional in entrepreneurship education programs from Stanford University, USA and University of Groningen, Netherlands.
She is also a Fellow (PhD) from the Indian Institute of Management Indore (IIM I) in Entrepreneurship and Disability. She presented her research work on disability and entrepreneurship at a prestigious international conference at the Academy of Management (Anaheim, California in 2016, and Atlanta, Georgia in 2017), the Strategic Management Society Conference (Sydney, 2015), and many more.
She has been an invited speaker in various conference and talks like W-Talk, Womennovator, ISB Mohali, IIM Indore, Vistaar (an annual event for SCI awareness).
On My Own is one of its kind experiential learning. They have created their office and accessible homestay in Jaipur wherein they provide a person with a disability and the family full support for 7 days (affordable and convenient) so that they can stay, visit accessible tourist places in Jaipur and learn to drive. The idea behind the homestay concept is to make learning more accessible for individuals who relocate themselves to become independent.
Once the accessible homestay project is over, On My Own is going to work on a campaign in the coming years in which they plan to expand in Chandigarh as it is an accessible city. They are partnering with the automobile engineering department at Thapar University to make an accessible car for wheelchair users in India. On My Own would like to work toward inclusive car rallies and long drives for inclusion and awareness.
On My Own driving school has been conferred by the following awards:
1. In 2017, Award of Excellence by Bharatiya Grameen Mahila Sangh (BGMS) with Haryana Women Development Corporation, Government of Haryana.
2. In 2018, the On My Own team stood first in the Women's Car Rally for the best social message of making disabled people independent in Jaipur.
3. Recently, Dr Anita received Dr Batra’s Positive Health Award 2019 in Mumbai.
She does not see it as a women-only school. It is for people with reduced mobility (men and women both). Her dream is to design a car where in wheelchairs can go in directly to make the life of wheelchair users easier as currently, they have to shift from their wheelchair to the car seat. Expanding the reach to other cities, getting a network of trainers who could teach on modified cars are some other areas to work upon.
They are applying for the incubation program at Atal Incubation Centre at ISB Mohali. In the next two years, their plan is to raise the seed funding for designing a suitable car, rallies, and homestays.
“The impact of the cause is measured from the independence of a family!”
The organization aims to target 10,000 people with disability in the near future. Since the disability of an individual impacts the family on the whole, she measures the success and growth of the company from the number of families she has impacted. She started from one individual to now more than 150 people who have been benefited by the initiative, out of which 6 were individuals with 100% disability below the waist.
“It’s a long journey, and a journey which requires a change of mindset. People have just started talking about it. To accommodate and make public places inclusive a lot of infrastructure and attitudinal change is needed. It is a long battle. And I am hopeful. Someday it will happen.”
On My Own is functional for the last two and a half years. They have trained 32 people for driving (including 6 with paraplegia condition due to Spinal Cord Injury). And provided consultancy to more than 122 people with locomotive disabilities.
The initiative started with one individual, Anita herself and now is associated with various other people like her family and sister Peeyushi Sharma who help her with website designing, ARAI (Automotive Research Association of India) approved mechanics like Rajesh Sharma from Anand Motors who has been conferred with the Jaipur Samahoran award (1998), the National Award for the Empowerment of Person with Disabilities (2016) and the Rajasthan State Award for the Empowering of Person with Disabilities (2017) and Ravi Atri from Karnal (Haryana), along with local volunteers who help build the organization stronger. She is also in talking terms with multiple organizations and will announce the partnership soon. The ultimate goal is to partner with an automotive giant in India and create a vehicle for people in wheelchairs to easily commute and become independent in their daily life.
Dr Anita Sharma has been invited to various institutes to share her start-up journey with students. The business aims to benefit 10,000 individuals with disability. A YouTube channel is on its way to create an impact and reach out to a larger audience. She targets interactions with inspiring stories of individuals with disability who have flourished in different fields of work.
Tangible impact are measurable. In the last one year, a total of 154 participants and families have been benefited through car driving training and consulting. On My Own is not just a driving training school but is an experience which involves every family member to witness the journey from disability to becoming mobility independent.
Their ‘conversation over coffee’ initiative received wonderful feedback from parents/ friends/ spouses/ children of people with disabilities. They have conducted two such events so far. The first event was held at ISB Mohali. Another event held at Vitthal’s Kitchen in Jaipur. They chose this place due to its disability hiring policy and accessibility.
Now, On My Own is going to introduce an On My Own accessible homestay facility for a person with disabilities and the family who are willing to learn car driving but finding it difficult to get a good accessible and affordable place. So, when they visit, they would not only learn car driving but also could stay at an accessible home and visit accessible places in Jaipur as it is a tourist place known as the Pink City.
On My Own’s growth is dependent on making not only the person independent but also on the entire family’s mobility freedom. On My Own earns through the training fees, accessible homestay, and consultancy.
Earlier the learners used to face problems related to poor public infrastructure, extreme weather conditions, embarrassment and harassment while using public transport. Now not only the learners but their families are also feeling the difference. Learners are not dependent on others' support anymore, they can go wherever they wish to go. Popular driving schools or other local players never considered people with reduced mobility as their customers. These schools fail to provide the required adjustments needed to be done for different types of disabilities. They don’t have the required licenses and trainers to give driving sessions to people with reduced mobility.
On My Own not only wants to create a short term or limited impact, but rather has plans to convert itself into a technology venture to benefit a larger audience and help bring out the concept of mobility independence at a larger scale.
Her story has also been featured by national dailies like The Times of India, The Tribune, popular magazines like Femina India, popular contemporary and famous online platforms like YourStory, The Better India, SheThePeople etc.
Check out these stories in the links below:
Anita Sharma, Founder
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Jaipur, Rajasthan, IN
Business Website: https://driveonmyown.com
Year Founded: 2016
Number of Employees: 2 to 10
The business is the solution. On My Own is a business that enables differently abled to learn to drive on their own. It is a business solution that promotes mobility independence and helps people with disabilities to feel more connected to the world around them. This innovation helps solve Good Health and Well-Being by gaining a new perspective, Decent Work and Economic Growth by opening new doors of employment, and helps Reduce Inequalities.