AUSTIN, Texas - Rideshare companies typically operate within a specific metro area, but the business model for Hitch provides a city-to-city link.
Kush Singh launched Hitch in early 2019. “Every day felt like sitting in a McLaren and going 150 miles an hour,” Singh.
A new deal with SXSW was also about to put the company in the fast lane. Then COVID-19 canceled the festival and just about everything else. “We were really nervous as a business, and as a small business, we didn’t know what our future look like,” said Singh.
The shutdown caused local travel to hit the brakes, but in a strange way, the outbreak created a need and an opportunity.
“What happen in May, for example, it was mainly essential workers, A lot of nurses warehouse workers and small business owners that needed to travel between cities didn’t have a way to get between cities and didn’t have an affordable and Safeway to get between cities,” said Singh.
The Hitch niche includes college students and those wanting to take trips but don’t feel comfortable traveling by bus, or they want an alternative to short-hop airline trips. The company currently provides links to the four top metro cities in Texas, as well as Waco, San Marcos & College Station. There’s even a route to Oklahoma City.
“We launched a private ride option and actually discounted it to incentivize people to take private rides instead of sitting in an 80 passenger bus you could sit in a one passenger hitch ride,” said Singh.
A private ride to San Antonio costs about $35. If you share the vehicle with other people, the price can drop down to $25. COVID protocols require the driver and passenger to wear a mask. Compliance is monitored through self-reporting.
“So after the ride is complete, a rider can rate the driver, the driver can rate the rider, actually tell us if the other side of the marketplace was wearing a mask, and we take that the back super seriously,” said Singh.
The service has not only filled a transportation need during the pandemic; there was also a surprise. It’s been a lifeline for people who lost their jobs but still had their wheels.
“It has been an absolute lifeline for me,” said Michelle Bolton. Before the outbreak, Bolton was a travel agent. As a Hitch driver, she received 60% to 80% of every fare. For her, it’s a big deal.
“It has been helping me get through this rough time it even helps me to keep my new house on track. I was in the middle of purchasing a new house when COVID hit so it has definitely been a lifeline and kept me on track,” said Bolton.
For business owners who are struggling, Singh has this advice. “Really talk to your customers and see what they would purchase and by because people today are really not as trapped as they think they are,” said Singh.
With that advice, Hitch may soon shift into a new gear and expand services. More cities in Texas may be added, and in early 2021, the app may be launched in different regions of the country
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