Coronavirus Pandemic

India: Bengaluru firm offers dedicated taxi service for Covid patients

Seethalakshmi S/Bengaluru
Filed on May 21, 2021
Supplied photo

Cabto’s vehicles fill in critical gap for oxygen-enabled ambulances amid lethal contagious scourge

When the going gets tough, the tough can innovate to rise to a daunting challenge.

India, which is ravaged by the second wave of the lethal contagious scourge, is putting its best foot forward to keep the viral outbreak at bay.

In Bengaluru, one of the worst-affected cities in southern India, Cabto, which used to cater to software companies and information technology (IT) professionals during pre-Covid-19 times,

has turned its entire fleet of vehicles for patients suffering from the contagion.

The initiative is hailed by the residents of the teeming metropolis, which has an estimated population of upwards of 12 million and is facing an acute shortage of ambulances because the contagion has overwhelmed the civic infrastructure.

Of late, Bengaluru has been reporting around 11,000 new infections daily, and the corresponding figure was much higher a couple of weeks ago,

Syed Hidayath, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Cabto, started the initiative after he saw a daughter struggling to get her parents, who had contracted SARS-COV-2, which causes Covid-19, to a hospital at night on May 6.

"Though hospital beds were arranged with great difficulty, no ambulance was available to ferry them to the health care facility. Her parents' health condition was worsening because of an alarming dip in oxygen saturation (SPO2) levels. She called us for help. Her desperate situation made me realise the importance of ferrying patients on time, as many are gasping for breath because of depleting SPO2 levels. We managed to ferry her parents to the hospital. Fortunately, both have recovered, thanks to our relief," said Syed.

Syed has been at it since that fateful night and over the past fortnight has ferried over 500 patients to hospital and diagnostic centres at a nominal rate.

Cabto’s vehicles have the works: portable oxygen cylinders are installed in cabs, drivers wear masks, gloves, and face shields, vehicles are sanitised after every ride and are also available round the clock. A passenger can call a dedicated helpline number and a car will arrive at h/her doorstep at the earliest.

Ambulance operators have also jumped on the parallel Covid-19 economy and are busy profiteering from the skewed demand and supply ratio.

In Bengaluru, a 10-kilometre (km) ride by ambulance can cost upwards of Dh500, while the corresponding figure in other metropolises such as Delhi, India's national capital, can be double that sum.

"In an emergency, you have no choice but to pay up. Time is of the essence and booking an ambulance is a tough act to follow. Cabto has been like manna from Heaven amid these unprecedented Covid-19-induced hard times. Many precious lives are being saved because of their quick thinking and prompt service," said a passenger.

For instance, a mother of an 18-month baby was struggling to find private transport recently at around 8pm when she heard that her husband, who was suffering from Covid-19, passed away.

"She reached out to us. It was a heart-wrenching moment. However, we managed to arrange a cab in 10 minutes and ensured the mother and the daughter could see their loved one for one last time. We're glad that we could be of some help during these difficult times,'' said Syed.

Cabto has proved to be a roaring success because of its humanitarian approach and efficient service.

Residents in the city can call at +91-7338360635 and +91-8971552750 round the clock and they will be immediately connected to the nearest available driver in their respective locations to ferry a Covid-19 patient to a hospital.

Many drivers have joined Cabto's platform to help the public.

"I did my first ride this morning. It's so seamless. And at the end of my 40-minute ride, I realised that I had saved a life. The idea is to put our skills to best use and help those who need them the most during these trying times," said Naeem Ahmed Khan, a driver who has joined the Cabto's network.

Syed is looking to raise funds to expand the services across India and make the rides more affordable. "I've been getting requests to expand the services. The contagion is unlikely to go away anytime soon. I'd like to dedicate my business to help as many people as possible during the pandemic,'' he added while attending another emergency call for a cab.

India is in dire need of more Cabto clones to win over the Covid-19 challenge.

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