Pivot and Persist: How bike taxi startup Rapido reinvented itself with delivery services during COVID-19
A survey conducted by Ficci and the Indian Angel Network (IAN) on the ‘Impact of COVID-19 on Indian Startups’ reveals the coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on startups, with 70 percent saying that their business has been impacted, and some of them even shutting operations. However, some startups are using the current situation as an opportunity to reinvent themselves and grow their business.
Bengaluru-based bike taxi startup, launched in 2015, had to temporarily suspend operations in April this year following the announcement of a 21-day lockdown due to the pandemic. Now, the startup has pivoted its services to adapt to the current situation and help people during the lockdown.
Aravind Sanka, Co-founder, Rapido
Rapido first joined hands with, Big Bazaar, and Retail to help them deliver essentials. Soon, it collaborated with local authorities in Delhi and Bengaluru for the delivery of essential items.
It supported the Delhi government in delivering essentials items like milk and food packets, under the DCPC Node, in underprivileged areas across the city. The startup also partnered with Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) in Karnataka for COVID-19 Home Delivery Helpline as a delivery service partner in a move to resolve supply-chain challenges amidst lockdown.
Further, in May, the startup announced the launch of its on-demand delivery service - Rapido Local. The person-to-person delivery service aims to enable customers to request pick-up and drop of food, groceries, and medicines. Initially piloted in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Kolkata, the service is now available in 45 cities across India, including Delhi and Chennai.
While Rapido resumed its bike taxi services in about 100 cities after the lockdown was lifted, it also launched Rapido Store for businesses.
According to Aravind Sanka, Co-founder, Rapido, the bike taxi is more open and personalised for intra city travel, as opposed to other crowded public transport facilities like cabs, buses, autos, and trains. By using Rapido, the customer will have an advantage of having less exposure to any infection due to his/her limited interaction with the captain (Rapido’s driver partners) and less touchpoints.
“This is how, with strong tech capabilities, we innovated our way out of the pandemic. We are committed towards providing a safe riding experience for all our customers. We were thus able to implement various innovations for our customers and Captains within a stipulated time frame and maintained business continuity,” says Aravind.
The recently-launched Rapido Store is an intracity logistics service for both offline and online businesses to deliver products to customers.
The Rapido Store will give these businesses and entrepreneurs an opportunity to maintain continuity and also increase sales by reaching out to new customers by leveraging Rapido’s extensive network. The service aims to help these businesses overcome their manpower and mobility challenges by helping them deliver their orders and save time.
Aravind says, “India is home to 30 million small and medium enterprises (SMEs), with many of them at the nascent stage of their digital transformation. The sudden and prolonged changes in social and business landscape has caused a significant apprehension within local and smaller businesses.”
Currently launched in Bengaluru and Vijayawada, the startup has already onboarded over 200 SMEs for Rapido Store. The base price of the service starts at Rs 35 for 3 km in Bengaluru, and Rs 30 for 3 km in Vijayawada. It will also help users track all their deliveries. All a user needs to do is recharge their wallet and create an order on the app.
“With COVID 19 disrupting life and business continuity, the country, its citizens, and businesses are rebooting themselves for a new normal. SMEs today contribute to about 30 percent of the country’s GDP and it is both essential and challenging for them to consider rapid digitalisation to avoid loss of productivity and business. Rapido Store is that next-gen service that will aid SMEs with the delivery of goods solution, saving them time, effort, and money,” Aravind added.
Today, Rapido has more than 15 lakh registered Captains present in close to 100 cities. The startup said Rapido Store will leverage the already existing fleet of Captains to ensure prompt, quick, and secured deliveries.
Surviving the pandemic
Rapido has also been focussing on the safety of its Captains and customers during the pandemic. For this, the Captains have been trained to run safety checks and follow strict guidelines before accepting rides to ensure the safety of customers.
Under this, all driver-partners will have to mandatorily install the Aarogya Setu app before they can go on-duty. They will be prompted to go through a checklist of items and accept or sign declarations every time they go online to accept rides. The Captains have also been asked to wear masks at all times and carry santisers and hair nets, in addition to the helmets.
They have to maintain personal hygiene and sanitise their bikes regularly, especially before on-boarding customers on the pillion seat. The company has provided sanitisers and masks to all its Captains. For customers, the startup provides sanitised half helmets, as opposed to full-face helmets, for every ride.
“In addition to this, we have also launched a new policy support where we are providing free cancellation if any of our Captains or customers are without a mask. After every ride, customers can give feedback about Captains not using the mask or sanitiser, and we will take appropriate action against the violators,” says Aravind.
The lockdown was more challenging for Rapido’s Captains as they were solely dependent on the bike taxi service for their daily income and livelihood. To support them, the startup launched a crowd fundraising campaign called #PeopleForCaptains to ensure their safety during these tough times. With this fundraiser, it claims to have raised and distributed over Rs 35 lakh to nearly 4,500 captains and their families.
The team is looking to drive into 2020 with a larger vision of making intra-city transportation convenient, affordable, and accessible.
“We have been growing at more than 15 percent month-on-month from the last three years and 3X to 4X year-on-year in the last few years. So, the growth will always be a major thing we will be focussing on,” Aravind says.
Rapido also aims to increase its logistics business from existing 10 percent to 25 percent of its total business revenues and is planning to expand its ‘Rapido Store’ and ‘Rapido Local’ to close to 100 cities where it is currently operational.
Aravind further adds that while the team continues to drive its bike taxi services across cities, it is using technology to propel newer models that will help serve end users as well as businesses in the post COVID world.
YourStory’s Pivot and Persist series spotlights Indian startups that are pivoting to seize new business opportunities, transforming their business models, and offerings to navigate the current COVID-19 crisis.