Guest Post; By Ola Akinnusi- Country Manager at Bolt
The ride-hailing sector was hugely affected by COVID-19 pandemic. The implementation of the dusk-to-dawn State curfew, introduction of wide-scale remote working policies and limitations on social gatherings drastically reduced urban mobility globally.
If there’s one thing the business community has learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the outright imperative for companies to be agile “from top to bottom” – Being able to rapidly assess a situation and then pivot quickly with relative ease in response.
At Bolt, learning from this crisis and implementing requisite changes has helped us to become more appropriately resourced and flexible to changing customer habits and expectations.
Here are a five business models we implemented from lessons we learned amid Covid-19 pandemic.
Introduction of Bolt Protect
Many of our efforts have been focused on ensuring driver and passenger health and safety are observed. We introduced Bolt Protect ride category where vehicles were fitted with surface disinfectants and with a protective plastic film of nylon installed between the front and back cabins, therefore, acting as a barrier that limits the airflow between the driver and passengers.
This tactic was a measure to proactively manage the risk of exposure and minimize the transmission of the COVID-19 while at the same time broadening the available commute options. It has been an immense contribution to boosting the confidence of passengers to run essential errands in a safe environment. Bolt financed the Bolt Protect plastic film cost for hundreds of drivers on the Bolt platform.
Introduction of Bolt Lite category
We appreciate the huge financial burden on our customers with respect to transportation especially in these difficult times. To this effect, we’ve expanded our ride options – to cushion passengers and increase driver earnings. We expanded our more affordable ride category dubbed Bolt Lite, targeting passengers seeking quality low budget travel into a number of cities where we currently operate in.
This category aims to make rides more affordable to customers, which in turn translates to increased trips, hence stronger earnings for drivers. Bolt Lite is optional for Bolt drivers and allows drivers to take full control of their earnings whilst offering financial relief for customers from the effects of a prolonged COVID-19 crisis. Bolt Lite is currently available in Nairobi, Kisumu, Nakuru and Mombasa.
Introduction of driver and rider SOS emergency feature
It is very important for us to proceed with caution and prioritize safety as we adjust faster to industry demands and the global economy’s new normal.
We have strengthened our driver screening processes and introduced emergency assistance features like the SOS button (for both the drivers and the riders on the platform) reserved for medical and security emergencies, giving both drivers and riders a quick way to contact first responders in the event that something goes wrong during a Bolt trip.
Users have access to the SOS emergency button on the app and emergency tracking option as a safety measure, improved auto location tracking feature, single tap booking and cancelling feature and a 24/7 in-app customer support is also available.
Diversification of operations
We’ve diversified our operations significantly, extending our services to include a parcel delivery option, thus allowing businesses to access a large network of couriers in under 5 minutes.
We rely on our operations and logistics, experiences and a large network of drivers on the platform to seamlessly move goods, parcels, groceries among other commodities to different locations. This continues to create alternative livelihood opportunities for drivers on the platform, thereby contributing to thousands of beneficiaries’ wellbeing.
Being nimble, efficient and smart
For us at Bolt, adopting sustainable measures that result in the prudent use of resources while providing convenient and efficient transport services remains a vital part of our ethos.
The global nature of our business demands that we remain flexible and efficient in every situation. We constantly innovate to meet the ever-changing needs and customer behavior in markets we operate in.
To this effect, we reacted swiftly and nimbly using a frugal approach to achieve more in our contributory efforts towards flattening the curve and curbing Covid-19 pandemic. We continue to encourage and facilitate our teams to work remotely resulting in economical use of resources while still providing convenient and efficient services to our driver and passenger communities.
We’ve leveraged technology and the internet infrastructure in Kenya and adapted entirely to contactless customer support options including in-app chats, emails and VoIP calls and thus eliminated the public health risks that would have been occasioned by in-person support at our driver and passenger walk-in support centres. This also significantly improved our cost structure by reducing fixed rental agreements.
The power of technology will see digital platforms introduce a great number of innovations and initiatives that build up the confidence of both drivers and passengers. Technological advances open up a range of economic development opportunities, encouraging the smart use of resources to achieve more while still providing convenient and efficient services.
Leveraging data analytics and artificial intelligence, ride-hailing platforms can constantly improve their understanding of customer needs and expectations, and then use this knowledge to upgrade the overall customer experience. This can be achieved in various ways including innovations such as having a user-friendly interface, shortened waiting times, pick-up and drop-off visualization, a refined onboard experience, ease of payment and faster and satisfactory quality issue resolution.
At Bolt, we continue to be innovative while relying on our experiences in operations and logistics
, and a large network of happy drivers on our platform to diversify operations and introduce new services or improve on existing services that continually meet customers’ changing demands
We will continue our effort to serve our community of customers and drivers better and ultimately in providing viable economic opportunities across locations we operate in. We are humbled to offer Kenyans more choices to move smartly in cities across the country.