Making Bolt work during the crisis

April 01, 2020

Making Bolt work during the crisis

The way we move has changed overnight as we’re practising social distancing and avoiding unnecessary trips. Transportation services remain critical to our functioning but have to adapt to times of crisis. Our product and operations teams are on the front lines of this transformation that sometimes needs to take place in just 24 hours. 

The world has changed…

Battling with COVID-19 has had a major impact on how we lead our daily lives, from how we commute (ideally, not at all) to how we shop (preferably, online).

As social distancing unrolls across countries — a billion people are now forced to stay at home – fewer and fewer people are using ride-hailing and public transportation. Online delivery has gone from being a luxury to a necessity in a matter of a few weeks.

… so priorities must change

A million drivers who have relied on Bolt to connect them with passengers and earn a steady income have faced a very different world in recent times.

Our product and operations teams have had to scrap their plans and rapidly adjust to this new situation. Bolt Food was rolled out in 3 countries in 2019 and we’re now looking at many new launches in the upcoming weeks and months.

Sometimes the response needs to be even quicker.

Launching grocery delivery in just 24 hours

Czechia and Slovakia were among the countries that initially moved to ban ride-hailing to enforce country-wide quarantines and limit people’s movement to curb the spread of the virus.

Since this would have meant the loss of income for thousands of drivers in the region, our operations teams had to act fast.

Due to the huge surge in demand, stores that allowed for online delivery of groceries suddenly saw waiting times of 5-7 days. A lot of people were caught by surprise as one of the safest ways to get essentials was out of reach without warning.

Online stores have waiting times from a few days to a week. At the same time, people are in dire need. Shops are open but people have been advised to stay in. What could we do to help in just 24 hours?

Bolt Grocery Box

We launched the Bolt Grocery Box ride-type, a new service that can deliver everyday basic items direct to your doorstep, 100% contact-free.

The price is fixed and includes the box as well as the delivery fee and will arrive at your doorstep in a matter of minutes in some cases.

Bolt Grocery Box

The box contains a selection of packaged or canned goods, including:

  • bread,
  • 2 of the following (depending on stock) pasta, rice, lentils or potatoes,
  • milk,
  • flour,
  • instant soup,
  • canned vegetables (beans, chickpeas or peas)
  • tea,
  • pâté,
  • sweets,
  • fruit juice.

Our operations teams consulted nutritionists and considered hygiene and the risk of food poisoning when coming up with the contents of each box.

Again, delivery is 100% contactless and only in-app payments are accepted.

Bolt Grocery Box launch in Czech Republic

The launch of this new service was only possible thanks to regulators and the government being flexible and forthcoming. In Slovakia, we had to get the permission of the top public health official — obviously one of the busiest people in the country right now. Nevertheless, they were able to grant permission for us within a day, so we had very few delays.

Czechia later decided against enforcing a ban on ride-hailing. However, the drivers have now been able to supplement their income by delivering grocery boxes at a time when isolation measures are hitting them.

Bolt Food serving groceries

Our Estonian operations team also responded quickly to the crisis by repurposing Bolt Food to be able to order and deliver groceries in several countries. As in other countries, the waiting times for grocery stores to deliver had climbed to 7 days and most people were unable to secure any delivery at all.

bolt food delivering groceries

Within a week, 4 grocery stores in Tallinn had signed on to Bolt Food and instead of day-long waiting times, customers were able to get all of their essentials, delivered contact-free, within half an hour.

As a quirky addition, Estonian bookshop Puänt, also made some of their book selection available for delivery inside the app.

Delivering packages within 1 hour

The number of online shoppers is not only rising day by day, but also hitting new highs. This has a knock-on effect to the logistics sector, getting goods and items to customers in a timely fashion is now more important than ever.

To help out vendors that need a distribution partner to deliver their products to their customers, we launched a new service — Bolt Business Delivery.

We created Bolt Business Delivery for businesses of all shapes and sizes, from one-man-firms to the biggest players out there. It’s meant for anyone who needs a delivery service to cover the last mile, manage item returns and handle multiple drop-offs via a single easily-manageable web-interface. Batch-deliveries and real-time tracking included.

Though launched in this crisis period to help out those in need, Bolt Business Delivery is a permanent addition to our product line. If you’d like to find out more, check out our dedicated blog post.

Other solutions: Bolt Isolated and scooters

Food and grocery delivery will remain a vital service in the upcoming weeks so our teams are ramping up our efforts for planned Bolt Food launches across Europe and Africa, as well as planning for markets that were not initially a priority.

While we’ve instructed our drivers to follow the official guidance prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO) — and made sure that we’re discouraging the use of cash and providing hand sanitiser where possible — we also acknowledge that there are people who might require extra protection.

In the next few days, the first countries will begin rolling out a new ride-type inside the Bolt app — Bolt Isolated, a service primarily aimed at essential workers that still need to move around.

Bolt Isolated

Bolt Isolated cars are fitted with protective plastic sheeting installed between the passenger and driver seats. The setup helps to limit the airflow between the driver and riders inside the car. Drivers are also required to ventilate and sanitise the car throughout the day.

Of course, these measures don’t  guarantee 100% protection from the virus but can provide for a somewhat safer ride for essential service personnel and people in high risk groups. Bolt Isolated is available as an extra-precautionary option while we work on rolling out similar solutions to other Bolt ride-types.

In Lithuania, we also made transportation for medical personnel free of charge. Additionally, the city government of Vilnius asked us to launch our scooter service early to add an individual mode of transport.

With the current pandemic control measures in Vilnius, Bolt is observing a new trend in scooter mobility. Usage appears to increase during weekdays for daily commuting and decreases during weekends, showing that the rules of quarantine are being respected by the population.

Scooter impact for Vilnius citizens during the quarantine period

Of all Bolt scooter rides occurring in Vilnius, the most common destinations are services that, by its nature, will continue to be open, like Vilnius City Clinical Hospital, Nasdaq Vilnius Business Centre, financial institutions and supermarkets.

We’re in talks with local authorities in many other cities to discuss how our mobility solutions can offer relief and assistance to their citizens at this difficult time.

Stay safe!

Though Bolt services are operating normally, we still advise you to stay at home and only order a Bolt ride if it’s absolutely necessary. The wellbeing of our communities and those on the front line is at stake and depends on the actions of each and every one of us.

For the most up-to-date information use trustworthy sources like the WHO and follow the advice of your local government.

Stay safe!


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