Lost revenue from the Covid-19 lockdown has forced ridesharing giant Ola to pivot to a new industry.
The Uber rival says it is now a "contactless" parcel delivery service.
Simon Smith, Ola managing director of Australia and New Zealand, said revenue from the company's ridesharing business had fallen dramatically in the lockdown, but at the same time it saw an opportunity to transport essential goods.
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"We realised there was a demand for people to have packages of essential items delivered at short notice across short distances, and we realised that our drivers, many of whom are still ready and willing to work, were available to provide that service," Smith told the Herald.
"We realised that we had already indirectly set up a service that is great at delivering essential items."
Ola's contactless delivery service works by a driver and customer agreeing where a package will be dropped off. The customer puts the parcel into the car and the driver delivers it. It is designed for short rides within the suburbs. The company asks customers to clean the surface of a package before they put it into the car.
Smith said the service was delivering items such as groceries, warm clothing, heaters to members of family or friends outside a person's immediate bubble.
"It's small scale, for things that are urgently needed," he said.
"It can all be done while maintaining appropriate social distance."
The service launched in New Zealand on Friday and is also operating in the Bengaluru, India-based company's other markets. "We've seen the same thing in Australia and the UK. India is in even more a stricter lockdown than New Zealand so we haven't seen it there."
In Australia, Ola is in talks with "several retailers" to deliver essential items directly to consumers at speed, Smith said.
"Australia went into a less severe lockdown before New Zealand, so we quickly realised this was an opportunity. When we went into level 4 lockdown in New Zealand, it was appropriately very restrictive, so there were only certain items that could be delivered, but nevertheless, the Government declared us an essential service and we felt it was our obligation to keep going and do what ever we can for the community."
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment confirmed to the Herald that Ola and similar businesses were allowed to act as couriers, but warned that, like couriers and parcel services, could only deliver essential items during the lockdown.
The Ministry of Transport is developing further guidance for "small passenger services" such as taxis and ride-share operators.
Smith said Ola had noticed a pick-up in rides in the New Zealand market after the launch of the service on Friday. He said the charges based on distance are the same as regular ride rates.
The company, however, did not see itself as direct competition to courier companies, whose delivery volumes have been slashed since the lockdown order, he said.
"We are very much immediate delivery in relatively small areas, within 5km [radius]. We realise that while people may need to get things delivered, most people have never used a courier service, they might not have an account, they might not even know the name of the service or how to set it up, whereas we know hundreds of thousands of people who have an Ola account, know how to use it and are comfortable with that service.
"It is certainly not the intention to make a big push into a different industry - it's just an opportunity for us to be useful to the community in this difficult time."
Smith was coy on whether the service would remain in the long term.
Ordinarily, Ola does not deliver food like its major competitor Uber does. It had no plans to launch such a service anytime soon, Smith said.
Ola anticipates that disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic will affect its full-year earnings, similarly to other mobility and travel businesses, but it is "confident" that it is "well-positioned" to see it through.