With most flight and intercity travel coming to a halt because of the coronavirus and Covid-19 pandemic, the Indian shared mobility sector has been hit really hard. Cab-hailing giants Ola and Uber have seen an almost two-third drop in their bookings, according to reports this week.
For the first time in many years, companies have been forced to cut fares to the minimum threshold to get more bookings. Meanwhile, the things haven’t been as rosy for the drivers as many privileged quarantined Indians. Drivers have to keep logging in and go from one location to another even without passengers in the hope of finding a ride. While companies might survive the maelstrom from coronavirus, many of their so-called ‘partners’ will be out on the road trying to make a living.
Ola drivers we spoke to confirmed that there has been a decline in the number of booking as the people have started working from home and avoiding all unnecessary travel. Talking to Inc42, one driver added that previously he would earn almost INR 3,500 per day, but the number has reduced to INR 2,000. With a complete shutdown not far away, the situation for the drivers is anticipated to get much worse.
While Ola and Uber are undoubtedly the biggest players in India’s shared mobility segment with an average of 1.7 Mn rides across seven metro cities every day. There are several other players that have been hit equally bad.
For instance, Mahindra and Mahindra-owned airport transportation service Meru’s rides have been hit to the extent that the company has to reduce its fares by 40%. Neeraj Gupta, founder and CEO of the company, told Business Today that fares are now starting as low as INR 39. Bike-rental companies Bounce and Vogo have witnessed a 10% to 15% decline in terms of customers.
The Impact Beyond Shared Mobility Giants
Self-driving car rental service Zoomcar, EV startup Yulu and long-distance travel startup YOLO Bus have been facing a 10% decline in their operations. Meanwhile, Dockless bicycle-sharing application Zypp’s (formerly known as Mobycy) cofounder Akash Gupta told Inc42, it is tough to ascertain the decline in terms of percentage at the moment as the company has also curbed short-distance travel due to multiple people using the bikes.
Zoomcar founder Greg Moran will be looking to support the specific needs of the customers with better pricing for long-distance booking as people look to practice self-isolation even when travelling from their work location to hometowns.
On the other hand, Zypp has had the first-hand experience of this trend. “We’ve has seen a huge uptake in its weekly/monthly plan sales and Zypp has also started home delivery of scooters, which is already getting good demand within hours of its launch,” Zypp cofounder Gupta said.
YOLO Bus’s founder and CEO Shailesh Gupta believes that buses will be the fastest mode of long-distance travel to come back on track once the intercity border blockade and travelling restrictions have been lifted. However, he also added that the company is expecting to see a 15 to 20% decline if the situation gets prolonged for a couple of months.
While the companies are still planning to keep the operations intact, app-based office shuttle service provider Shuttl and electric vehicle (EV) tourism startup B:Live have decided to discontinue their operations till March 31 at least.
Samarth Kholkar, cofounder and CEO of B:Live, told Inc42 that the company is expecting a 50% to 60% decline in their revenues during the high precaution period. The company believes that it will take at least three to four months for the business to come back to normal. “With the summer vacation period coming, we expect the recovery in travel and tourism to be quicker,” he added.