KARACHI: Pakistan’s online ride-hailing service providers are losing 90 percent of their business to a ban on pillion riding which remains in place despite the easing of other coronavirus-related restrictions, stakeholders say.
Provincial authorities across the country have banned motorcycle pillion riding amid other measures taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus, right after the government imposed a countrywide lockdown in March following a spike in infection figures.
“During lockdowns, our business was completely shut down,” Muneeb Maayr, founder and CEO of Bykea, an Urdu-language bike-hailing and logistics app, told Arab News on Friday.
“The official ban on pillion riding still goes on despite lockdown easing. It has impacted the business up to 80-90 percent.”
The ride-haling sector’s stakeholders have asked the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), which oversees Pakistan’s coronavirus response, that the ban be lifted as lockdowns and restrictions on other businesses have already been eased.
Information Technology Minister Syed Amin ul Haque told Arab News on Thursday that the ministry has written to NCOC to direct provinces to lift the ban.
“This is a provincial matter and we have written a letter to NCOC that the all provinces be directed to lift the ban on pillion riding so that the systems of Bykea and Careem move toward improvement,” the minister said, “I had a meeting with the Bykea chief, they are facing big problems due to the ban in the big cities where they operate.”
Bykea has a network of over 500,000 drivers, offering services in Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi. With the company’s operations downscaled to 10 percent, only delivery services have been entertained by them since the ban. Those who ordered motorbikes to go to commute to work are now forced to travel by taxi or rickshaw, which costs them much more.
“Bike is mode of transportation of middle-class segment of society,” Bykea’s Maayr said, “The ban has impacted around 60 million urban dwellers in major cities of Pakistan.”
Regarding measures to protect customers from the virus, he said a standard procedure should be that they bring their own helmets. “Wearing helmets by both riders would be the safest way of traveling as compared to other modes of transportation like cars and rickshaws.”