As the lockdown eases and people get back to work, transport has been a major problem for workers in Kathmandu who don’t have private vehicles. At this time, the services of a few ride-sharing apps which had made commute easy in Kathmandu are being missed.
Sunny Mahat of APEX talked to Asheem Man Singh Basnyat, Regional Director of Pathao, on the plans and possibilities of ride-sharing apps during and after the Covid-19 crisis.
How was Pathao doing before the lockdown?
We had 50,000 riders before the lockdown, and one million service users. We were doing around 30,000 rides a day at an average of Rs 105 a ride.
Do you think the government will use this pandemic as an excuse to ban ride-sharing companies once and for all?
The government, the public sector, and the private sector are three pillars for national development. In times like these, cooperation between these sectors is important. As most policy issues have been addressed, we don’t think this pandemic will be an excuse to ban ride-sharing.
How safe would ride-sharing bikes be compared to other means of public transport when we need to maintain social distancing?
We have equipped our riders with protective gears, masks, sanitizers, and we are also disinfecting our vehicles. There are many contact points in public vehicles, which make it difficult to stop the spread of the virus, unlike the bikes that do not have many contact points. So everyone can be certain of the safety level of ride-sharing vehicles, which are more reliable than other means. Further, contact tracing is much easier with ride-sharing platforms. So infected cases, if any, can be tracked early.
What will be the ‘new normal’ for ride-sharing services after the pandemic?
Safety is definitely the new buzzword and it is indeed essential for us as a responsible company. Thus ride-sharing services will be more cautious and serious about safety. Measures like mandatory wearing of masks, equipping riders with sanitizers, and disinfecting our vehicles are likely to stay here for long. Further, as we step out of this pandemic, there is likely to be more demand considering that ride-sharing platforms are a lot safer than other platforms. We are even thinking of sealed cabins to minimize contact between the passenger and riders in cabs.
Do you believe ride-sharing services can find the same or similar level of business when things get back to normal?
On one side, people might purchase more private vehicles, reducing demand. However, while the economy is sliding and people are losing jobs, they might find ride-sharing a better option to buying vehicles. On this note, we believe ride-sharing will be even more popular once things get back to normal. There is a speculation that public vehicles will not be able to operate the way they had been before the pandemic. If so, the price of public transport will be almost equal to ride-sharing. And given that ride-sharing is much safer with precautions, we expect an increase in business.