Covid-19: Vehicle rental firms chip in to support essential services

Annapurani V Chennai | Updated on April 09, 2020

From partnering with retailers to providing riders for delivery, they ensure mobility during lockdown

As India battles Covid-19, mobility firms that supply vehicles for rent and last-mile deliveries have stepped forward to support essential services and to provide emergency transport in various parts of the country.

While these firms have grounded their fleet in accordance with the government’s order of a nationwide lockdown, they are utilising a select number of vehicles to ensure mobility for the front line workforce in the country, including bankers, healthcare professionals and delivery executives, and are partnering with various organisations whose operation is essential during the lockdown period.

“We are providing vehicles to hospitals and doctors, grocery companies, government agencies and people in medical emergencies,” said Greg Moran, CEO and co-founder of Zoomcar. “We have partnered with online retailers like Big Basket, Grofers, Milk Basket and Apollo Pharmacy for last-mile delivery,” he added.

Zoomcar offers emergency services in over 45 cities in the country, presently. To rent a car in the current situation for essentials, one has to go on the company’s website, select the “Offline Booking” option and enter the required details in the Google Doc that shows up, post which a customer-care executive will reach out to discuss the details for booking.

“We charge a nominal amount and routinely have thousands of inquiries per day for emergency service support and we are fulfilling them whenever possible,” said Moran.

Pulkit Ahuja, National Head, MyChoize Car Rentals, said the firm has earmarked 100 cars in the 20 cities it has presence in and has been offering them at zero rentals to various government and non-government organisations that are working towards providing essential services in various parts of the country.

Customers in need of a car for emergencies now have to call either the MyChoize call centre or the local MyChoize office of their respective cities. The booking is then confirmed by manually verifying the customer’s essential travel eligibility, post which a payment link is sent via SMS and the payments are received online, Ahuja added.

Both MyChoize and Zoomcar are self-driving car rental firms. While MyChoize does not provide drivers along with its vehicles, Zoomcar provides drivers for whichever bookings opt for it, currently.

Avis India, another company that provides car rental services in India, has also currently allocated around 10 per cent of its overall fleet to support essential service-providing organisations. The company provides vehicles with chauffeurs in Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata. Sunil Gupta, its MD and CEO, said the company will provide its mobility services in other cities depending on the requirements of its customers.

“We’ve doubled our essential services vertical and are delivering thousands of essential delivery packets daily to households,” said Akash Gupta, co-founder and CEO of Zypp (formerly known as Mobycy), an electric bike, scooter sharing platform. “We charge grocery chains on pay per packet model,” he added.

Zypp provides its services to many firms, including Big Basket, Zomato, Swiggy, Modern Bazaar and Apollo Pharmacy. It also provides riders for delivery.

Some hold-ups

While these companies are pitching in to help as much as possible, be it reducing rentals, accommodating extensions and renewals for vehicles, partnering with more firms to enable more deliveries, there are issues hold-ups such as shortage in manpower and adding more vehicles to the fleet, which they are trying to set right.

Zypp’s Gupta said one key hiccup they are facing is adding more electric vehicles to their fleet. Due to the lockdown, factories are shut and they are not able to deploy more vehicles for essential services. ,

“So far, we have had good supplies with our fleet of 1,000+ e-scooters which are all getting placed in the essentials delivery vertical. We’re looking for some local factories in Gurugram/Manesar that can possibly supply us more of the fleet, if this lockdown gets extended,” Gupta said.

Published on April 09, 2020

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