How vehicle rentals can deal with COVID-19 challenges in six key ways

Here's what startups in the vehicle rental space could do to overcome the existing situation triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

26th Apr 2020
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The last quarter of FY19-20 was impacted on a global scale by the coronavirus pandemic. IMF’s Chief Economist Gita Gopinath stated that the world has been put under a “Great Lockdown”, and projected that the GDP for India is expected to be 1.9 percent for FY20-21 – down from 5.8 percent estimated in January – and warned that this is the “worst recession since the Great Depression”.


In a volatile situation like the one we are currently facing, the travel industry has been impacted the worst. The bike rental business, that is heavily dependent on travel, has now found itself grounded, staring at a significant time gap before the business is allowed to resume.


bike rental

The demand from regular customers looking for bike rentals for long-distance travel and long-term rentals for daily commuting has dwindled. Currently, the only demand is from essential service providers and delivery executives that ply on empty roads, and companies are offering revised prices that would help them continue with their job.


Here are a few points for those in the shared mobility economy on how to survive the coming months - 

Build team motivation and empowerment

Now is a good time to connect with your team. Working remotely has become the norm, and so it is important to initiate the practice of keeping your teams informed about the company’s ongoing activities in the interim.


Conduct morning meetings to successfully cater to relevant customers, keep the community engaged, share ideas, innovate, evolve current SoPs and discuss their vision for their careers, as well as the future of the company. Keep your team motivated on what’s yet to come, empower them with a positive attitude about the situation and give them hope for the future.


A recent report stated that mental health issues have risen by 20 percent over the last couple of weeks alone. So it is also important to engage the team and give employees a safe environment to open up about fears in the present situation. 

Take care of the company’s assets

A way to ensure that your assets are in working condition when business reboots, is to disconnect the battery terminal connection of your vehicles.


In creating a temporary business model in the present scenario, work on aspects where your business can continue to serve at whatever capacity is possible while adhering to the protocols.


For example, you can keep your doors open for essential businesses that are still running and need their workers to commute within the city. You can alter your fleet to fit vehicles that do not require extensive maintenance and are efficient for local riding.

Offer sanitised vehicles

Public transport is not safe anymore. Even after a full-scale sanitisation, it is still a risky option for commuters. A suitable alternative – bike rentals – will be at the forefront for private, convenient, safe, and affordable mobility for inter-city commuting.


In the best interest of customers, offer ‘sanitised’ services, a keyword being uttered constantly in the same sentence as ‘public safety’. Spray vehicles with Grade A disinfectant before each rental. Factor in secure SoPs in line with your company’s processes to sanitise vehicles and adjust your variable costs accordingly.

Bring Your Own Helmet (BYOH)

Like face masks, helmets will be used for the additional benefit of protecting the rider against contracting coronavirus. However, riders will be cautious against sharing a helmet that has passed numerous hands. A helmet is in close contact with the face, and is required to be worn by the rider at all times.


Give customers the option to purchase brand-new full-face ISI-certified helmets or BYOH (Bring Your Own Helmet) – a practice that lets customers opt for bike rentals with owned rider gear.

Evolve with changing customer sentiments

As businesses dust off the past and open their shutters again, they need to realise that customer sentiments for their products will also change. We expect a rise in demand for bike rentals in the weeks after the staggered lifting of the lockdown. However, why people rent will change.


You can turn this into a positive situation. Should the demand for bike rentals surge, you will need to look into hiring additional resources to handle it. Remember that services, like sanitisation, will need to be added to the SoPs, making it necessary to bring trained hands onboard.

Keep a close eye on expenses

Cash flow remains a challenge. The situation should stabilise in the coming months. In the aftermath of the lockdown, as revenues resume, you need to ask: how will you extend your runway? In the short-term, the risk of debt will arise, so you need to focus on the absolutely necessary requirements to keep business running. In such a case, you will need to figure out the leaks, adopt cost-cutting methods and invest where it’s worth it.

Plan for the short term

At the end of the day, you need to do what’s best for your customers. Understand that people will be watching their expenses in FY20-21. For customers to be willing to put their trust and hard-earned money into your product, you need to offer them the best service that you can provide. Accordingly, you will need to factor in pricing and variable costs.


Depending on the market scenario, it could entail revising rental pricing and offering discounts. And as norms change, including social distancing, short-term lockdowns and other policies, draw a blueprint for each financial quarter as it approaches. Look at your business model from every possible angle, follow-up with prospects and yes, plan for contingencies.

 

We’re all in this together. No one anticipated that the first half of 2020 would be so unpredictable and volatile. As we are going through this predicament, it’s important to focus on innovative solutions. The most important thing to do at this point is to look towards the future with hope.

(Edited by Kanishk Singh)

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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