Ride Sharing : Changing the Face of Commuting, Generating Alternative Employment


Raju Rijal, 22 had just begun a job at an IT company before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country in March 2020. And, like many others, Rijal too lost his new job as the government enforced a strict lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. With other employment opportunities hard to come by, Rijal started working as a rider of the ride-sharing service Pathao. “It has already been more than a year since I became a rider. I am earning around Rs 25,000 easily every month,” he said.
Rijal is a representative of thousands of youths who have made ridesharing a part of their living. At a time when employments have been hard hit by the pandemic, one job that is thriving, especially in Kathmandu is ride sharing.

Passenger too ate finding ride sharing an easier and convenient commuting alternative. Bipin KC, a postgraduate student, usually books rides through ride-hailing apps. “Using ride-sharing is safer than the congested public vehicles, and you can skip the chaotic traffic,” he said. “For me time is money. I can save my time which means I indirectly save a significant amount of money.”

While it’s been only five years that ride sharing companies have come into existence in Nepal, but they are making an impact when it comes to transforming the labor market. Ride sharing companies such as Pathao, Tootle, and others are part of the gig economy that are providing alternatives job opportunities over traditional employment with easy access to jobs, flexible working hours, and good income.

Companies like Pathao, Tootle, Lozoom, Sarara among others are not only making commuting in the capital city easier and accessible but also creating employment opportunities for thousands of youths. While Pathao and Tootle are the established ones, Sawarima, Lozoom, Hoop Rides, Sarara, and Filili Ride are the new entrants in ride sharing market.

It all started in 2016 when Sixit Bhatta’s startup company Tootle introduced the concept of ride sharing in Nepal for the first time.
In a city like Kathmandu where the public transport system is still not organized and efficient, ride sharing platforms are turning out to be the best alternative for commuting. For thousands of people in the capital city, these tech-based platforms are providing hassle-free and affordable travel.

Alternate Employment Opportunities 
The main reason behind the success of ride sharing is the alternative income opportunity youths, mainly students and unemployed people, are getting from the platforms. While there is no exact data about the number of jobs the ride sharing companies have generated, it is estimated that over 200,000 people are employed by them.

The Bangladeshi company Pathao currently is the largest ride-sharing platform in Nepal. It has around 150,000 riders which include both two-wheeler and four-wheeler vehicle drivers. Similarly, Tootle has 60,000 riders registered in its platform as riders.

According to Ashim Man Singh Basnyat, Country Head of Pathao Nepal, the majority of the company’s riders are students. Ride-sharing platforms offer the riders an opportunity to make money at a time convenient for them. “In terms of age group, the majority belong to are 20-40 years in age,” said Basnyat.

Basnyat claimed ride sharing platforms are emerging as one of the largest job providers in the country. “Those who have lost jobs or are incurring huge loss in their businesses due to pandemic have become a part of the gig economy,” said Basnyat, “Majority of them have opted to work as riders on ride-sharing platforms.”
According to Pathao, a bike rider can earn up to Rs 65,000-70,000 per month depending a on the number of trips. Normally, a rider makes 15-20 trips a day. “In Pathao’s case, we have more than 15,000 riders who are earning 20,000 per month,” said Basnyat.

Growing Number of Riders
After the government eased the lockdown, there has been surge in the number of people joining ride sharing platforms as riders. As people started going back to offices and businesses, many have opted to hire ride sharing services instead of going by public transport.

Basnyat says that there has been a huge surge in applications from people to work as riders. “Before the pandemic, 70-80 new riders used to join our platform daily. This number had more than doubled to 150-200 between the period of first lockdown and second lockdown,” said Basnyat.

Madan Phuyal, 32 is one of those who have started working as a rider recently. According to Phuyal, it’s been one and a half months since he started the job. “I am happy with the income as I am earning at least Rs 1,000 every day,” said Phuyal who is not a full-time rider, “I have a full-time job somewhere else, and I only ride for 5-6 hours every day.”

Regulating Ride Sharing
The country’s existing laws are not very supportive of innovative companies such as Tootle and Pathao. As per the Motor Vehicles and Transport Management Act, 1993, it is illegal to use private vehicles for public transportation. This has led to a situation where ride sharing services have been barred by authorities to operate in the past.

And, then there is still strong opposition from the taxi syndicate who even filed a case against ride sharing companies in the court. After Patan High Court gave a verdict in favor to continue their operations, ride sharing companies are finding it easier to run the business. However, there needs to be a regulation in place which could make this business legal as well as provide legal protection to the riders.

So far, only Bagmati Province has shown initiatives whose Province Vehicles and Transportation Management Act,2019 allows the private two-wheelers and four-wheelers to engage in ride sharing after fulfilling the necessary legal parameters.

Despite Patan High Court directing the government to draft a law to regulate ride sharing services, the federal government is yet to come up with a legal framework. It’s been almost a year that a draft of the Federal Vehicles and Transportation Management Act was forwarded to the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport.
As ride sharing has become very popular and a large number of people are engaged in it to make a living, experts say the governing laws are necessary to regulate the platforms as well as to provide safeguard to passengers and riders.

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