BYKEA – Pakistan’s largest network of motorbikes for transport, logistics & payments announced steps to facilitate citizens as urban Pakistan went into a lockdown amid COVID-19 fears.
30,000 monthly active drivers working as gig workers were forced to stay home at onset, as city administrations banned all on-demand companies and shut all retail markets including restaurant take-aways. As news spread of COVID-19 spreading in China in February, Bykea started to distribute face masks to all its driver partners and its 200 employees. Hand sanitizer dispensers were placed at all exits and outside franchise operations.
By early March, as schools and government offices shuttered, the company started distributing hand sanitizers from manufacturers at cost to citizens via its fleet and delivered a few thousand hand sanitizer orders.
By the second week of March, the company had started to mandate employees on work from home drills, leveraging collaborative tools like Slack, Google Docs, Sheets and Hangouts and by week two, all staff were working from home. Strict guidance was shared with the fleet on standard operating procedures around hygiene, mandatory face masks, gloves and distancing around Bykea’s delivery capabilities.
By the middle of March, cities in Pakistan, particularly Karachi, went into a complete lockdown, and all on-demand services were suspended from operations. In this unprecedented move, city administration also banned deliveries, and for a week, the most vulnerable daily wagers lost their only source of income.
As the lockdown prevailed towards the end of March, Bykea announced a relief fund of 7 million Pakistani Rupees and commenced disbursement through mobile money channels to its top performers whose daily earnings were most impacted. Simultaneously, Bykea disbursed payroll for March a week in advance of April, gave an internet allowance to staff working from home and assured employees that their health care costs of employees and their family members in the event of protracting COVID-19 would be completely covered by Bykea.
With the complete lockdown, the state started making plans around distributing food rations to the poor. But as time progressed, and Bykea realized that the state was not equipped to distribute ration in any systematic way, we lobbied to offer our fleet at cost or even pay half the cost of the deliveries if the state utilized our fleet.
The first to act on this was the city administration in Karachi, which handed over food rations in the thousands to Bykea to distribute to specific personnel, identifying their national IDs and delivering to their doorsteps.
Bykea got its crowd sourced call center team in action which started calling recipients, soliciting exact GPS locations for their homes and dispatching the job automatically onto the Bykea driver partner app. Drivers started showing up at designated godowns picking sacks of ration, tying them to their motorbikes and heading into communities to deliver at the doorstep. At delivery, the driver would take a photo of the national ID of the recipient and the delivery GPS and National ID photo were shared with the city officials for reconciliation.
Seeing this as a successful mode of delivering within specific neighborhoods to the very needy, NGOs jumped to offer their ration loads to Bykea as well. NGOs were struggling in getting food rations on pickup vans as enroute, many were being ransacked given the dire poverty and loss of income during this lockdown period.
Bykea’s investors showed immense trust in the business and doubled down on their commitment to fund the business despite it having lost its business during this lockdown. They continued to encourage the employees to think long term and build products that would be relevant in the next quarter in the post COVID-19 world. Bykea’s engineering team also utilized this lockdown to work on engineering solutions around distribution capabilities for small businesses leveraging Bykea’s network and technology.