The new normals in a world where Covid-19 unfortunately is becoming a part of our life will bring about many changes in the way businesses will be conducted, and more importantly, the way we live our life.
Travel is one of the worst-hit sectors because of the pandemic. Businesses in the sector have bled for more than four months now and the way forward also doesn’t look so rosy as leisure travel will be reduced to absolutely nothing.
In this supremely challenging business environment and a cloud of complete uncertainty, the road ahead seems to be very foggy. And to demystify the uncertainties of this important sector we spoke to Greg Moran, CEO & Co-founder, Zoomcar to understand their post-lockdown comeback strategies and the way forward.
How are you coping with the impact of Covid-19 on Zoom Car? How effectively have you used the lockdown period?
The outbreak of COVID-19 resulting in a global pandemic is certainly unfortunate. While everyone is advised to observe proper precautions, stay indoors, observe social distancing, and maintain proper personal hygiene, Zoomcar has been coming up with provisions to better take care of their customers. In times of lockdown, mobility is certainly challenged. However, through our fleet of over 10,000 cars, Zoomcar is ensuring that mobility-as-a-service is available for anyone who needs it.
While Zoomcar grounded its fleet in accordance with the government’s shutdown order, the company had utilized select vehicles to ensure emergency mobility for the frontline workforce, including bankers, healthcare professionals, and delivery executives. Our aim is to ensure we deliver cars in a safe condition to the customer.
The quest for a solution to a particular crisis helps invent new business opportunities and sometimes leads to a revision of existing business models … What sort of innovation has or will the Covid-19 pandemic bring to ZoomCar?
The challenge for us has been to rethink the business model that provides a steady stream of revenue to mitigate business risk under COVID constraints, to understand how the consumer behavior will change post-Covid and how to manage costs in the absence of business continuity. It also gave us an opportunity to reflect on our business model, technology infrastructure, and understand our customers deeply. Zoomcar is truly a digital company. Right from booking a car on an app to picking up and dropping the car through the concept of KLE (keyless entry), we have completely automated the customer trip cycle. Zoomcar has been already doing contactless deliveries since the last few years, much before COVID forced us to. In spite of having a strong technology model, running a B2C business is a constraint in these times due to the ban on commercial transportation.
To solve this, Zoomcar had tied up with essential service providers like hospitals, grocery delivery companies, etc to serve the community and is also providing cars on demand for personal emergencies. Zoomcar has also revamped the car subscription program wherein customers can subscribe to a car from as low as 1 month to 36 months. This has struck a major chord with our customers as a personal car not only helps you in social distancing but is also the need of the hour for medical emergencies. Here, deep roots in technology not only helps us to change the product quickly but also to reach out to our customers in need faster.
While some parts of the country have become Covid-19 free, cities like Mumbai and Delhi are still in a lockdown situation. How are you planning to resume business across cities that are not in the Red?
We do expect a wider number of use cases to emerge for car-based personal mobility. Over and above the historical use cases, we see more demand for very short term use cases given the hygiene/safety factor. We’re also seeing demand for thousands of vehicles on b2b. With novel subscription and a promise of guaranteed sanitization of cars after every use, Zoomcar’s Subscription program is at the cusp of cornering this entire demand. The last couple of months have been quite a wild ride for everyone and particularly for those in the mobility sector. But the last few weeks in May, we began to gradually build up operations and saw bookings and subscriptions come back in a strong way. We are already seeing a 400% rise in demand and we expect this to settle down at 200-300% over the next few months.
People are now looking for shorter-term mobility access as opposed to a long term investment. We have seen a rise in demand for cars for personal work and emergency use cases. Rentals for intercity travel are up and a lot of people are opting for one way travel. The notion of owning a car amidst such an intensifying emphasis on social distance may have taken the backseat. Still, the necessity of a mobility service remains as relevant as before. As people would avoid public transport to keep themselves safe from contracting the virus, the need for rental cars will only go up. The industry is looking at various car subscription models to serve the needs of the customers.
We also see more demand for in-city trips compared to outstation ones and a strong focus on shorter-term subscriptions. One of our focus areas has been increasing this exponentially by adding more and more vehicle models which will be offered on a subscription basis. We are also aggressively partnering with the major automobile OEMs to offer a subscription as an alternative to vehicle ownership.
What will be Zoomcar’s communication strategy post the opening of the lockdown? Understandably bringing customers back to you would be difficult… What will be the objective of the communication/marketing strategy?
In these trying times, Zoomcar is driven with a singular motto to minimize any disruptions in essential service and business partners while ensuring safety for individual service providers and contractors. The fight against coronavirus requires private and public sector players to come together and ensure that we achieve normalcy and make this world safer for everyone. It’s probably the most fluid business crisis in recorded history given the various twists and turns. We anticipate a significant increase in car subscriptions post Covid-19, as consumers look to avoid public transport without the burden of car ownership. Car subscriptions will continue to evolve and grow into more flexible plans and longer durations of leases ending in 12, 24, or 36 months.
Even in the post-pandemic world, the rental car industry has advantages to leverage fuelled by the demand that is at an all-time high. The prime reason is that car ownership does not come hassle-free. One has to incur maintenance expenses and problems along the lines of inadequate parking space, volatile fuel prices, and rising insurance premiums amongst others. All these inconveniences are rooted in the minds of people who entertain buying a new car and are put off by the same. As such, the craze over purchasing news cars has been declining in recent times. With an ever-increasing populace across urban spaces, a shared mobility solution emerges as the only logical step towards a sustainable model. Additionally, the pandemic has resulted in several people losing their jobs, putting a strain on their income, and limiting it to essentials such as food and pharmaceuticals. With shorter lock-in periods and nominal pricing, subscription models are an easier option. Moreover, the needle has now moved from ownership to the experience. Subscribing a car allows one to have a seamless and safe experience. Also, for those who like to experiment with cars and prefer variety, subscription-based models are the perfect choice since you needn’t stick to one car for a long period of time.
How did you keep the morale of the employees during this lockdown period? On a personal note, what kept you positive?
Teams are now officially getting into the groove in this new working reality, It is important to religiously follow daily stand-ups and staff meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page. Never waste a crisis. Use it as a teaching moment and as an opportunity for the team to become closer together and work at an even greater productivity level. As we look ahead, it’s not entirely clear when the central government will end the lockdown, but there is one thing we are sure about, we will not be laying off any employees during this difficult time. If you are not used to working from home, it can take some time getting used to new challenges that you might not have at the office. It’s important to have a defined schedule and stick to it. One hack that I abide by is to ensure that you block some time during the day for exercise.
What are some of the post-lockdown business strategies that Zoomcar will use to bring the business back on track or at least get it in the right direction and also create demand for yourself?
What used to be the norm till last year may well become obsolete in the coming weeks. Therefore, each industry needs to adapt to the new normal. There is an exponential spike expected in the demand for car subscriptions. Considering the impending recession, car subscriptions will prove to be a better option than ride-hailing. It’s simply the most affordable and quickest way of acquiring a car which is also a safe personal mobility option. Imagine getting a hatchback or an SUV delivered to your doorstep in one day flat with Zero down payment! We have multiple options for subscription but the shift in demand has been towards one, three, and six months. We anticipate a significant increase in car subscriptions post Covid-19, as consumers look to avoid public transport without the burden of car ownership. Car subscriptions will continue to evolve and grow into more flexible plans and longer durations of leases ending in 12, 24, or 36 months.
With COVID-19 forcing operations to go entirely digital, Zoomcar is leveraging technology such as AI and IoT to offer an impeccable experience to its customers. We also have a keyless entry which minimizes human contact and curb transmission of the virus. Every car is also thoroughly sanitized before and after each drive. With deep-rooted technology models, Zoomcar has tweaked its mobile app to allow customers to reach out at any time in case of a query through emails, messages, and chatbots.
The platform’s entirely digital payment gateway also makes for a smooth and hassle-free experience. Vehicle monitoring and predictive analysis will help us with data like speed, distance, RPM, clutch, brake, and time, which will be used to calculate the driver score, which encourages customers to drive cautiously. Not only does it increase the safety of the customers but will also help maintain the car in a better condition. A close eye will be kept on Engine temperature and coolant level to predict engine seizures before it happens and guide the customers safely to a stop in case of any such situation. By prioritizing safety, hygiene, and customer experience with technology at the core, Zoomcar is looking to make its cars future-ready and COVID-19 safe.