Pregnancy is no cakewalk. Even more so, if it coincides with a global pandemic. The novel coronavirus outbreak has cast a shadow of doubt, fear, and uncertainty on the world at large.
Particularly for expectant mothers, the pandemic has proven to be especially stressful with essential services disrupted, supply chain broken, several industries brought to a grinding halt, and as a result, several families rendered jobless or without a steady source of income.
For Shabnam Jaffer Sheikh, it was no different. In the final trimester of her pregnancy, things were already stressful for the Pune native; and it was further aggravated when the mobility sector came to a standstill, following the country-wide lockdown imposed on March 24 as a preventive measure against the spread of coronavirus.
“Things had come to a standstill owing to the lockdown, and we were having difficulties in managing our household expenses. I was in the last trimester of my pregnancy and the lack of a steady channel of income made us anxious about my nearing delivery date,” she tells MAKERS India.
Shabnam’s husband, Jaffer Sheikh, who is a driver-partner with online mobility platform Ola, was faced with unforeseen financial challenges due to the pandemic-induced crisis.
What’s the contingency plan?
By 2023, India’s gig economy was projected to reach a $455 billion market size, according to industry group Assocham. Revenue in the ride-hailing segment alone was expected to grow at a CAGR of 13.5 percent from 2020 till 2023, as per data portal Statista.
In the light of an unprecedented pandemic, these targets sure look like a Sisyphean task now. But startups in India are launching financial relief measures and contingency plans to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, especially its impact on India’s growing gig economy workforce.
To this end, Ola has launched the ‘Drive the Driver Fund.’ The fund strives for the welfare of Ola’s driver-partners and their families, who have been affected by the restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.
Launched under the aegis of its social welfare arm, Ola Foundation, the fund aims to provide auto-rickshaw, cab, kaali-peeli and taxi drivers, with emergency support. It is doing so through contributions from the Ola group, investors, and citizen contribution via crowdsourcing platform.
“Drivers and their families across the country are facing a lot of distress due to the extended lockdowns to arrest the contagion of COVID-19. Any case of a medical emergency in the family during these times of limited income can be a huge financial strain on them,” says Anand Subramanian, Spokesperson and Head of Communications, Ola.
He adds that during this time, the team has been working round the clock to provide support to thousands of driver-partners across the country who have reached out to Ola Foundation over the past few weeks.
“The Ola Foundation's Drive the Driver Fund aims to help any cab, auto or taxi driver across India, and their immediate family members, with financial support,” he adds.
Boon to pregnant wives of driver-partners
So far, through the ‘Driver the Driver fund’, Ola has been able to impact more than 9000 cases of medical emergency. While the fund is aimed at supporting the driver community at large – a key goal is to provide support for expenses relating to medical emergencies and deploy essential supplies – a considerable portion has also been deployed to support pregnant women during their delivery.
With the lockdown impacting the income of its driver-partners, Ola has extended help to women by supporting them during their pregnancy and by providing them financial assistance during delivery.
“The sudden lockdown commenced prolonged difficult times for our family. We had already spent a lot of our savings in building our house last year. Now, while expecting our child anytime, we were surviving on mere savings,” says Jayashri Prahlad, a resident of Mumbai.
Her husband Prahlad, on finding out about the relief fund, had reached out to the Ola Foundation to seek financial support, and he was provided with financial assistance within a week.
“This money has helped me pay the doctor’s fees and also buy essentials for my wife and baby,” says Prahlad, now a proud father.
(Edited by Athira Nair)