Summer is unofficially over and the kids are back in school. For some, that’s a mix of good and bad news (summer with children can be difficult, after all, no matter how well behaved they are), and for the fledgling ridesharing service Zum, it’s another season of business.
Zum (pronounced like “zoom”) focuses on using private rideshares to get children to and from school and their extra circular activities. In a new payments interview, Ritu Narayan, CEO and founder of Zum, talked about where the company fits into the ridesharing space, and the unique challenges faced by Zum.
It’s been an exciting ride this year for the ridesharing industry, with both Lyft and Uber launching their initial public offerings, and global investment in this industry continues. As well, ridesharing is becoming an even more significant part of the daily consumer lives. Recent evidence of that comes from Google, which announced right before the Labor Day holiday that Google Maps users can now plan trips across different modes of transportation, with a new feature pairing bike routes and transit with ridesharing.
However, Zum is a different creature than other ridesharing services, even those that are already used by parents to get children to and from school, Narayan told PYMNTS. “We offer a very high level of trust and safety,” she said. Perhaps most importantly, all drivers undergo background checks that include fingerprint authentication, and all Zum drivers must also have least three years’ experience in childcare — that means, she said, that the Zum driver pool includes stay-at-home mothers, coaches, nurses, professional childcare workers and other types of people. As well, all Zum drivers meet TrustLine certification standards, among the highest such standards around. All Zum drivers must use vehicles that are no older than 2009 models.
The idea is to provide a driver who is not only trustworthy and vetted, but one who gains the confidence of parents and might even take on regular gigs for that family — say, a same-time daily school pickup, or even as a carpool driver for a group of families.
Role Of Buses
Trust, of course, is the big issue for Zum, and while the service’s early days involved a lot of on-the-phone conversations with parents to answer all of their many questions, Narayan told PYMNTS, as the service expanded into more states — Zum operates in seven states, Illinois among the most recent — word of mouth among parents and school families is now carrying more of the marketing load. Indeed, Zum is present in more than 250 school districts, and often works with school authorities to help augment a school’s transportation options, which often involve only busses and a relatively small amount of bus routes, she said.
“Buses are very expensive to operate and maintain,” she said, adding that not all schools offer ample bus service to the meet the needs of after-school activities. “And it can take six to eight months to hire a bus driver.”
Indeed, the ongoing rise of Zum shows how the gig economy is influencing not only the notion of labor but the availability of on-demand services, including those related to transportation. Also, that, in turn, is leading to changes in expectation on how gig workers — including those driving for ridesharing and ride-hailing companies — want to be paid, as documented by fresh PYMNTS research.
A growing number of workers are turning to platforms like Uber, TaskRabbit and Upwork to earn extra money — or even to make gig work a primary source of income. While the gig economy is upending many aspects of the traditional employee-employer dynamic, the way gig workers are paid scarcely kept pace with these developments.
The paycheck cycle long favored by employers can wreak havoc on the finances of gig workers, whose schedules and workloads are often anything but regular. This is especially the case for workers who lack savings and struggle to pay their bills, or those considered to live “paycheck-to-paycheck.” Pay advances to enable workers to receive full or partial payments for jobs they have been assigned but not yet completed. PYMNTS research indicates that this payment option would help gig workers to gain financial control and stability in an economic arena in which these are often lacking.
It’s too early to say what type of impact Zum might have on gig work or the broader ridesharing industry, but as a new school year starts, it’s safe to say that Zum stands as another effort to disrupt and innovate in this space.