Ride-hailing must diversify to weather Covid-19 storm

Ideas & Debate

Ride-hailing must diversify to weather Covid-19 storm

An empty restaurant in Eldoret town following a government directive in March that restricted hotels and eateries to take-away service to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA 

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many companies and small businesses are feeling the strain of staying afloat. Curfew enforcement, work from home policy and social distancing have drastically reduced movements of individuals, affecting normal operations in the brick and mortar businesses.

There’s no bright side to the coronavirus killing tens of thousands of people, disrupting businesses and changing the general ways of life. Nonetheless, businesses must creatively adjust in order to weather this storm.

Many of the current efforts should be focused on ramping up efficiency, ensuring safety and making the most of the existing systems.

One of the key qualities that will serve a business, more so the ride hailing industry, amid this crisis, is adaptability. By adjusting to the way things are currently, and creatively doing so, the industry is likely to survive.


Ride-hailing service providers, for instance, have introduced in-cabin separation to protect drivers and passengers against the spread of coronavirus during a trip.

This tactic is a measure to proactively manage the risk of exposure and minimise the transmission of Covid-19 while at the same time broadening the available commute options.

It can be an immense booster to efficiency and effectiveness in the mobility system. With the abrupt changes to supply and demand caused by this pandemic, the on-demand transportation platforms have risen to the challenge.

They have diversified their operations greatly, with some tapping into delivery services thus allowing businesses to access a large network of couriers within minutes.

One such venture is Bolt Business Delivery Service that was recently launched in the country helping in the delivery of packages and essential goods such as groceries and pharmaceuticals to customers at their doorsteps.

Instead of just transporting people to different locations, the tech-platform now relies on its experiences in operations and logistics, and a large network of drivers on the platform to seamlessly move goods, parcels, groceries among other commodities to different locations.

The market is ripe for the delivery business at the moment, considering the fact that restaurants are now adopting the take-out model of operations as opposed to sit-ins.

People too are keeping off crowded places like market stalls and grocery stores hence creating strong forces of demand for the delivery services to flourish.

The delivery service is used by all kinds of businesses, from restaurants to supermarkets, to grocery stores, to pharmaceutical companies.

This means it is a collaborative endeavour whose ripple effects are economically progressive, hence massively cushioning the economy from the severity of the crisis.

These have indeed created invaluable partnerships with numerous businesses and community organisations serving the most vulnerable.

For instance, it promotes the supply chain equilibrium, balancing the forces of demand and supply. This will help the vendor stores like supermarkets and grocery stalls, who are the third party businesses, to remain in operation.

More alternative employment arrangements for riders and drivers have been created on the platforms impacting many families across many cities in Kenya.

Drivers and riders are able to earn from their delivery jobs, thus keeping the economy vibrant and progressive.

This also ensures that customers, riders, drivers and the entire community remain safe and are cushioned against the cruelty of Covid-19 by getting their supplies at their convenience and in a safe environment as people continue to come to grips with the impact of the virus.

In these challenging times, the creative diversifications in service delivery by businesses are vital and should seek to protect the public from the crisis.

They also form part of the extensive measures meant to proactively manage risks of exposure while creating a sustainable revenue flow to the business. Creative diversifications are instrumental in keeping the fleet of business enterprises running as effectively as possible.

Akinnusi is the country manager for Bolt.

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