Shared Mobility In The Backdrop Of The Pandemic; What The Future Looks Like

The COVID-19 pandemic has left a deep impact on the transportation sector. Amid this, experts are contemplating the measures that should be adopted by this industry to make a strong comeback.

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In less than a year, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely crippled several industries across the globe. In these times of social distancing, the transportation sector remains one of the most affected across the world. From lockdown restrictions to peaking cases, shared mobility has taken a hit due to several reasons.

Even as the lockdown restrictions are easing down, very few people are opting for shared modes of transportation due to the risk of contracting the virus. Several surveys are being conducted to understand user psychology and to study the impact of the pandemic in the mobility sector. Experts are also proposing different strategies to resurrect the advancement of the industry to the pre-pandemic stage. Let’s have a look at this in detail.

Understanding Consumer Needs And Concerns

According to a survey, before the pandemic, a majority of the consumers would choose the mode of transportation on the basis of the time taken to reach the desired destination. However, now, only one-third of the people choose the transportation mode based on the time taken to reach the destination. In fact, a majority prioritizes safety during traveling while all other factors such as time and cost of the trip remain secondary.

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Less than 10% of those who took the survey believed that ridesharing would be a safe option in the pandemic. Only 7% of the survey respondents felt that public transportation would be a safe option. On the other hand, about 80% of the respondents considered private vehicles as the safest option.

This public sentiment is clearly reflected in the sharp decline of services recorded by businesses such as Uber, Ola, and other ride-sharing companies. However, experts believe that this nature of the sentiment is bound to change in the coming days. In fact, consumers will want to switch to shared mobility services in comparison to other modes of transportation such as public buses and metro because as more people return to work, there is a risk of violation of social distancing norms in these public services. 

Measures Being Undertaken By The Ride Hailing Companies

As the lockdown got eased and consumer demand picked up, mobility service providers (MSPs) started focusing on tackling the hurdles and minimizing adverse impact on their business. For instance, Uber and Ola resumed services by implementing rigorous safety protocols for the drivers and passengers. 

In May 2020, Uber India issued safety measures such as wearing masks manditorily, pre-trip selfies for the drivers to ensure that they wear masks, a revamped post-trip feedback system and an updated cancellation policy. The policies included a ‘go online checklist’ wherein drivers and passengers would be required to confirm their adherence to the safety measures including sanitisation. Sachin Kansal, Senior Director of Product Management, Uber stated:

Over the last two months, our global tech and safety product teams have been hard at work building a new, product experience for riders and drivers. Today, as India eases its lockdown, it’s important we take all necessary precautions to help keep ourselves safe and to make the next trip safer for all. These new features and policies have been rolled out globally, and we will keep enhancing and revising them as needed to ensure a safer product experience for all.

In April, Uber offered Rs. Twenty-five crores to its driver-partners in India so that the company could retain its drivers and resume seamless services as soon as the lockdown got lifted. 

In May, Ola introduced ten safety measures including selfie-verification, sanitisation, digital payments, flexible cancellations, among others. Moreover, at most two passengers would be allowed to travel in the same cab. Anand Subramanian, spokesperson of Ola, stated:

10 Steps to a Safer Ride brings together customers and driver-partners to adopt 10 best hygiene practices together for minimizing the risks of the Coronavirus on themselves and the community. In our efforts to further flatten the curve, adopting a united front by undertaking the necessary preventive measures will lead to better outcomes and in emerging stronger together.

The Way Forward For The Mobility Sector

Experts believe that MSPs should step up the marketing efforts in the coming weeks and assure people that they can safely switch back to cab sharing services. They should also review their revenue sources, and if an opportunity arises, they should not hesitate to include new revenue streams. For example, in May 2020, Rapido launched an on-demand delivery service as a new means to generate revenue. The company leveraged its existing workforce to benefit the consumers as well as the drivers. 

Moreover, in the months to come, MSPs will be required to revamp their business models to rise back up, only stronger this time. The companies should allocate capital in the best interest of the region they operate in. This might also mean that the companies start allocating resources for non-mobility services such as grocery delivery for a new revenue source, as seen in the case of Rapido, India.

But most of all, companies will have to prioritize safety and instill confidence in the customers. From proper sanitization and good ventilation to contactless digital payments, the companies will have to come up with staunch regulations to ensure maximum safety and minimize any adverse implications of the pandemic. However good the marketing effort or business model is, at the end of the day, this is the only way to regain customer confidence. These protocols will go a long way to improve the post-pandemic life too. 

Overall, with the government’s support and right strategies, MSPs can spring back from the crisis. This will be a long journey, but it is believed that shared mobility services will be more popular than ever in the days to come when people resume daily activities.


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