Amid pandemic and pandemic-related lockdowns across the world, almost every sector faced an extremely challenging 2020 and the effects were perhaps most severely felt by ride-hailing apps like Ola and Uber. With people locking themselves inside their homes in many countries and for several weeks, there was just no one to summon a cab. Even once lockdown restrictions began to be eased, there was - and is - an apprehension pertaining to whether it is indeed safe to get into a cab. And while companies continue to underline the safety precautions put in place, the year gone by was one that would best be confined to the dark by-lanes of memory.
But does 2021 bring with it the promise of radio cabs making a resounding comeback? Much would depend on how effective the vaccines being tested are and how quickly these make way among people at large.
It is unlikely that the early parts of 2021 will be much different to how the last few months of 2020 have been. Things have taken a turn for the better but are still a far cry from pre-Covid-19 levels. Numerous surveys and studies conducted across the world show that there is a sure move towards personal mobility options and a hesitation towards using mass transit and public transportation means. Such has been the impact of Covid-related factors that Uber laid off 600 employees in India last year, part of 3,00 fired the world over. Ola in India fired 1,400 employees amid a 95% fall in revenue last May. US car rental company Hertz filed for bankruptcy. A study by Continental Mobility Study 2020 found that demand for commercial car pool services in countries like the US, France and Germany is in a 'state of crisis.'
The worst may be over but the good times aren't likely to roll in anytime soon, not at least till such time that an effective mass vaccination drive doesn't become a reality.
Adapt may be the buzz word here.
Ola is looking at entering the business of manufacturing e-scooters in India. Uber has pledged to return to profit by 2021. "We will be driving discipline across the company and only doing investments that we can afford," CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.
It will be a walk on a tightrope. 2021 may bring with it a whole lot of promise but lessons from 2020 will serve as a reminder to be more watchful than ever before.