Bike riders become essential part of Covid-era economy

Published August 24, 2021
Riders have become even more important for the economy as it has shaped over the past year or so with many businesses going online. — Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
Riders have become even more important for the economy as it has shaped over the past year or so with many businesses going online. — Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: Most of us constantly come into contact with riders, sometimes daily. Most seldom give them a second glance.

When 25-year-old Imran asked for water while delivering a parcel to a house during an extremely hot day, the person he asked was taken aback. “It was almost as I was not seen as a human,” he laughed. “I felt weird but it was very hot and I didn’t have any water. I usually keep my contact minimum.”

Imran, who has been working as a rider for a company for a couple of years, didn’t mind the reaction. He is aware that he is invisible to most people but he knows how important his job is. “It’s just like other people working in essential services — most of us are invisible but important. Like the people at a petrol station, how many of us even look at them. They are just voices and shadows in your lives, but if they are not there, it will be difficult to function.”

Recently, riders like Imran have become even more important for the economy as it has shaped over the past year or so with many businesses going online.

‘Everyone who has a bike can join with small or no investment and earn’

Pakistan has seen a rise in demand for businesses over the last year or so, especially since the Covid pandemic has restricted mass movement. Online shopping and delivery have become a big part of our lives, especially the younger generation.

There are so many issues that have to be addressed about motorcycle transport in Pakistan, which is rising rapidly. Planning and appraisal of the policies are needed but this can only be done if proper research is done on this topic.

One person who is aware of the importance of riders is Engineer Murtaza Asad. Asad who is a member of the PSQCA for road safety, road traffic safety management systems, is conducting an important research on bike riders in Pakistan.

Commenting on his research, Engineer Asad said that the employment opportunities created for bike riders are phenomenal and are an improvement on the services that were already being provided by people like electricians, milkmen, and others.

“In this research, we are studying how the unemployment online is tackled by employing bike riders and what are their basic needs such as health, road safety, and maintenance.

Asad has been involved in different projects from which riders will benefit like getting a basic degree, learning new skills, and adding value to their skills to help them in building a professional profile. This is important for the rider and the industry as a whole.

“Our research will help a rider to find out his niches in the industry and improve on them. And for the first time, he will get a letter of experience which will highlight his positives and strengths — for example, what are his interests and where will these interests and skills be better used. If he is good at delivery, customer service, or paperwork. This research will provide data to help companies understand the type of riders’ services they can have,” he said.

Engineer Asad and his team are working on research that has not been done anywhere else. “Our research extends across Pakistan and work is still being done but slowly. The main reason for this is lack of funds for the project. It seems no one wants to invest in this industry, even though it is fast-growing employment — everyone who has a bike can join with small or no investment and earn.”

He said: “We still have to study more than 3.5 million bikes across Pakistan but the funds are the biggest hurdle for this and we are not being supported by anyone. [A private university] had shown interest and was going to sign with us, but it didn’t work. The government is not interested in this project for some reason. The National Transport Research Center (NTRC), Sir Syed University (SSUET) and Transport Engineering Services (TES) all supported the endeavour."

Lifeline for overseas Pakistanis

Riders are also important for another section of society, the parents and families of Pakistanis living abroad who need someone to trust to step in to help to do chores, etc.

This is where Yasir Shirazi comes into the picture. He lives in the US and was constantly thinking of ways to alleviate the burden from his parents’ shoulders, getting things done for them through someone he could trust.

And so he set up InstaKin in 2019 as its founder and CEO and this is his story: “InstaKin’s story is my own story. Almost every migrant I have spoken to can relate to it. I have been an overseas Pakistani for the last 12 years. Like many others, I still need to get tasks accomplished in Pakistan (paying bills, etc). Over the years, I noticed that most overseas Pakistanis specifically (and overall migrant communities in general) would always complain that they are always dependent on busy friends or extended family to manage tasks on their behalf. This causes time-sensitive delays (unfortunately, sometimes there is also misuse of remittance funds).”

Through Shirazi and his team have helped thousands of migrants by providing services like hiring a rider via Instakin for getting medicines delivered to parents in Pakistan (through a service for it known as InstaRunner); getting educational and legal documents attested from back home; sending gifts to loved ones on special occasions; ordering consumer electronics and appliances that can be delivered to family back in Pakistan; hiring an event planner for a family celebration and maybe the most important, paying bills for family back home.

The InstaRunner will help generate new employment opportunities in the country and they estimate that more than 3,000 new jobs will be created directly and via the vendor network over the next two years.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2021

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