[TechSparks 2020] Interoperability, dignity of labour, and growing EV focus: the way ahead in last-mile mobility
COVID-19 has hit the world hard, and the automotive and transportation industry hasn’t managed to veer away.
According to a McKinsey report, the traditional automotive sector is likely to produce 7.5 million fewer vehicles in 2020 – an impact being attributed to the pandemic.
There has been a whopping 70 to 90 percent drop in the number of riders across major cities in the world. The report added there has been a decline of up to 70 percent by most ride hailing companies. Clearly, last-mile connectivity and mobility have been impacted.
In a virtual roundtable at TechSparks 2020, Vivekananda HR, Co-founder and CEO, Bounce; Aravind Sanka, Co-founder and CEO, Rapido; and Kartik Misra, Head of Strategy and New Initiatives, Dunzo; spoke about the COVID-driven shifts in the last-mile mobility segment and how they will affect the future.
Vivekananda HR, Co-founder and CEO, Bounce
Delivery and mobility: interoperable models
All mobility companies were severely impacted when the lockdown was announced in March 2020, going from 100 to zero in one day. But that didn’t keep most startups down. Many collaborated with delivery players to ensure that their fleet and drivers were used for deliveries as well.
Many continue to do the same even as cities unlock and open up. The idea is to use the fleet and the delivery partners to their fullest.
“From Dunzo’s perspective, the integration is flatter and cost is lower. From the delivery partner’s lens, they make more money. The large delivery fleet that we have can be leveraged for people as well,” Kartik said.
Kartik Misra, Head of Strategy, and New initiatives, Dunzo
A shift towards two-wheelers
One of the biggest shifts the panellists see is the move from public transport to two-wheelers.
“A large segment of the population still depends on public transport - now there is a risk of transmission, so the need for safe mobility becomes important, and two-wheelers offer that,” Vivekananda explained.
Aravind Sanke, CO-founder and CEO, Rapido
There also is a shift in the demography. Earlier, Rapido and Dunzo, which offers the bike-hailing option in a few cities, saw that the people using the bike-hailing services were early office goers, or college students.
Now, bank employees, hospital workers, and pharma sales representatives are opening up to the idea of using the platform.
"People are extremely conscious about using four-wheelers; they’ve moved to bike sharing and hailing,” Kartik added.
Public transport in India is not like it is across the world. For instance, there are 6,000 buses for over three million people in Bengaluru, making the vehicles overcrowded and public dependency high.
The biggest question now: how you get these people to move?
Opening of new models
With more people looking for safer modes of transport, there is an increasing opportunity for mobility startups to look at newer models and modes of innovation.
Rapido has opened up the auto-hailing option on its platform. “Timing has accelerated the path of launching autos…it’s what can we do with the tech we have and with users looking for the safest modes of transport,” Aravind said.
He added that autorickshaws were a natural extension of bikes, as people in Tier II and III cities are comfortable with bike and auto rickshaws. Rapido is also using autos for delivery of essentials.
Change in gig economy
Kartik said that the one thing the pandemic had taught us was respect for delivery partners, drivers, and front end staff. “The dignity of labour that wasn’t there earlier has come in. The gig economy and use of delivery as a great first-time or part-time job is being seen by many,” he said.
There also is a growing focus on how companies manage their gig economy workers. Many had, in fact, gone home during the initial days of the pandemic.
However, with the growing need for bike sharing and bike taxis, along with their use in delivery of essentials, more companies are beginning to value their frontline workers.
The panel was unanimous that the future of mobility in a post-COVID-19 world was in collaborative public and private transportation systems, faster EV adoption, and infrastructural changes.
TechSparks - YourStory's annual flagship event - has been India's largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we've received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020.