Sanitation and cleanliness on top of new age mobility firms' agenda

Topics Coronavirus | sanitation | Lockdown

Uber has acquired 3 million masks to provide to its drivers
The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly crippled the sharing economy, and also several new-age companies, especially those focused on providing viable commuting options to urban travelers. As the country relaxes lockdown restrictions, these players who somehow continued to weather the crisis by coming out with newer services, are going all out to win the trust of the customer. 

A noticeable way these companies have stayed relevant during the lockdowns is by partnering with businesses classified as essential services, while a few bigger ones have trimmed their workforce in order to cut costs. 

In India, where the lockdown was more stringent than many other developed countries, shared-economy firms have dealt with things differently. "Airlines, trains, metros and taxis which are traditional shared economy are coming back (to normal) albeit with operating tweaks. The new-age shared economy will similarly stay, though the models will get more premiumised and irrational pricing going away," said Pankaj Karna, Managing Director at Maple Capital Advisors, a boutique New Delhi-based investment bank. 

Large players like Uber partnered with e-commerce and online grocery firms to deliver essentials, Uber also came up with its UberMedic service, which ferried healthcare workers in partnership with hospitals during the strict lockdown period. It had piloted using a plastic sheet to isolate the driver's seat for the service. As the lockdown lifted, some drivers have chosen to continue isolating their own seats in the cabs. In partnership with various state governments, Ola rolled out ‘Ola Emergency’ service to enable citizens across the country to access essential medical care. These include safe medical trips such as scheduled check-ups, dialysis, chemotherapy and for immediate medical needs such as injuries.

As the lockdown restrictions began to ease around May 18, Uber came up with a "Go Online Checklist" for both riders and drivers including a mandatory mask policy for both, an updated post-trip feedback mechanism and a cancellation policy. The drivers are required to upload selfies wearing mask before the startup of a trip. They have also been advised to use three-ply face masks, and discard them after a single day's use. 

Uber has acquired 3 million masks to provide to its drivers. The drivers are also free to use their own as long as they comply with the requirement of keeping their face covered at all times.

Experts believe that in developed markets like the US, people will prefer driving on their own rather than taking a shared cab of the likes provided by Ola or Uber. In India, where use of own car is not viable for everyone, two-wheeler and bike sharing players are expected to fill this void. 

“Bike Taxi is a more open and personalized way for intracity travel, as opposed to other crowded alternate ways like cabs, buses, autos and trains. Besides, the customer has an advantage of less exposure to any infection due to his or her limited interaction with the captain (drivers),” said Aravind Sanka, co-founder, Rapido.

During the initial phases of the lockdown, Rapido moved fast to ensure income and work for its drivers and decided to accelerate its already existing Rapido delivery services and tie-up with major retailers and online firms like Big Bazaar, Bigbasket and Spencer’s to deliver essential goods during the lockdown.

 

The firm recently launched Rapido Local, an on-demand person-to-person delivery service where customers can request pick and drop of food, groceries and medicine using its app in Bengaluru, Kolkata and Hyderabad. Similarly, scooter sharing firm Bounce has established partnerships with delivery companies to ramp up their supply chain and ensure rapid delivery of essential good. It has also introduced initiatives like ScooterHero, a P2P platform to register idle personal vehicles. 

Vogo, an on-demand scooter and bike rental provider, has announced to home deliver sanitszed bikes to those who are unable to come to pick them up from the docking stations, apart from providing sanitation kits to the customers. Consumers now also have the ability to enhance their rides for longer durations so that they have the freedom to drive at any time for any work. “Enabling sanitised rides, providing multiple ridership options and making rides affordable have been key to our post-Covid strategy,” said Anand Ayyadurai, co-founder & CEO of Vogo.

As the lockdown restrictions begin to ease in most parts of the country, it is yet to be seen how it pans out for customers and urban mobility firms. However, customers may be willing to pay more for a better, more sanitised experience as health concerns continue amid the pandemic. 

Mobility 2.0

- Ride sharing firms focus on sanitation and cleanliness 
- Bounce introduces long term-rental and subscription options 
- Bounce-A (Atmanirbhar), the service has done over 35,000 within a week of its launch 
- Some like Rapido mandating the use of Aarogya Setu app 
- Most players tweaking cost structures to incentivise riders 


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