What I Learnt From Taxi Drivers In Dubai – Strategy With RS

I travel to Dubai often. And travel in cab to get around. I make it a point to strike a conversation with the taxi drivers to understand the way they think. Most of the cab drivers, I have met, hail from Peshawar. To them I pose 2 simple questions?

• What are the life lessons they have learnt? And from whom?

• How did you end up becoming a taxi driver?

Most of them give the same answer – their parents, elders & teachers taught them life lessons when they were young which are proving to be right; they ended up as taxi drivers because they did not pay heed to these life lessons.
This prompts me to ask the next logical question – what were the ‘life lessons’ which they have disregarded which got them to be taxi driver?

Most of the answers have 7 common themes:

1. To escape poverty there is only one panacea – education. To drill home this point most parents, elders & teachers repeated a proverb, ‘If you study hard you will become a lord. If you only play hard then you will become a wastrel’. They disregarded this advice & quit school. Today they are regretting their decision at leisure.

2. Respect your elders & teachers. While all confessed that they resected their parents & elders but many candidly admitted that they did not show the same respect to their teachers & blatantly disregarded their advice of paying attention to studies! Had they paid heed to this advice they would not have ended up driving a taxi in a far off country, perennially yearning to go back home to be with to their family.

3. Live with in your means: Spread your legs equal to the size of the sheet. If you disregard this axiom then debt, accompanied by misery, will knock at your door & both are likely to be your companion, for life.

4. To be happy look at people below you. And to be unhappy look at people above you.

5. Reputation (Izzat) is sacred. With reputation (Izzat) one can lead an honorable life. Try & not tarnish it. Once it is tarnished then it is extremely difficult to regain it.

6. Look after elders & family back home. Actions speak louder than words – if they do not look after their parents now, then they will set a bad example for their children to emulate; their children, when their turn comes, may also not look after them in their old age & times of need.

7. Be satisfied with what you have. Do not compare with others: Work as hard as you can to earn your livelihood. But at the end of the day be satisfied with what you have earned; do not compare your earnings, or other materialistic things with your fellow drivers. That will invariable make you miserable.

8. Limit your desire: The root cause of most problems is desire. Desire has no limit. Learn to control it. If unbridled it can lead to misery & misfortune.

9. Do not spend everything you earn. Save a little bit every day from your earnings. These small drops of saving will one day fill the pot!

10. Speak well & act honourably: Do not speak ill of others. Always speak well & act honourably in every situation.

11. Every body is better than us in some way or the other & in that we can learn from everybody.

I realised that every parent, elder & teacher, in every part of the world, share these lessons, with their children. But as children many of us disregard them. Only to realize their veracity – but by then it is too late to make amends – the damage has been done – many of us end up struggling for the rest of our lives.

To make amends we try & pass on this wisdom to our loved ones – few among us pay heed to this advice while most do not – and they are condemned to repent at leisure for rest of their lives!

I guess this is what must have inspired Bill Gate to observe, ‘If you are born poor its not your mistake; but if you die poor then its your mistake’.




In this series, Rajesh Srivastava, Business Strategist and Visiting Faculty at IIM Indore gives you a regular dose of strategy case studies to help you think and keep you one step ahead as a professional as compared to your peers. Rajesh is an alumnus of IIM Bangalore and IIT Kanpur and has over 2 decades of experience in the FMCG industry. All previous Strategy with RS posts can be found here