Troubles along the road for food delivery partners

Bengaluru will surely be the crucible for several experiments in food delivery platforms to drive down costs. Meanwhile, it is the poor delivery “partners” who will serve as the guinea pigs for these experiments

Updated - December 16, 2022 09:40 am IST

Published - December 15, 2022 11:30 pm IST

A gig worker on his way deliver articles to customers in Bengaluru on December 14, 2022.

A gig worker on his way deliver articles to customers in Bengaluru on December 14, 2022. | Photo Credit: K. MURALI KUMAR

Earlier this year, in July and August, food delivery workers from Swiggy were on strike in different parts of Bengaluru. This followed strikes in other metro cities by both Swiggy and Zomato workers. The demands and grouses are common, primarily that the earnings are insufficient.

With more workers chasing less jobs in cities, such platforms become an easy job opportunity for anyone with a vehicle and a driving licence. This brings with it a vicious logic — with more workers available, platforms can cut down on rates; consequently, over-hiring results in less tasks and in less daily earnings.

Swiggy workers in Bengaluru said they managed to earn just ₹300 per day. The earning with incentive was ₹1,000. However, to earn incentive, they had to work 12 to 14 hours.

A study done at the National Law School of India University showed after deducting fuel cost and apportioning the fixed costs of vehicle maintenance and paying vehicle taxes, the net earning was only around 40% of the total received. That means at the end of 12 to 14 hours, the actual net earning to the Swiggy worker, even with incentive, might be only ₹400 for the day. This is what a garment worker in the city earns in eight hours, with additional benefits of a day off and social security cover.

The National Law School study also covered one delivery worker who averaged 13 hours and 192 km driving daily over seven continuous working days. This continuous and intense effort would surely take its toll on the worker; it would also impact maintenance and depreciation of the vehicle, leaving the driver with higher costs and a run-down vehicle to navigate the roads with. It is not surprising platform workers have been going on strike.

Platforms are in continuous effort to innovate to drive down costs and retain market shares. Earlier in the year, Zomato came up with its proposal of ’10 minutes delivery’ which drew flak on social media of further pressure on overworked workers. The current buzz is e-bikes to reduce operational costs. Sure, they reduce costs. Many delivery workers are opting for it to improve earnings.

According to Yulu estimates, about 17,000 gig workers used its EVs in 2021. However, is the technology safe, given several media reports on two-wheeler e-vehicles catching fire? Is the bike ergonomically suited to long distances carrying heavy loads? The proposition introduces yet another regulation deficit — the EV bikes with maximum speeds less than 25 kmph do not require a driving licence. In crowded metro traffic, untrained delivery workers trying to push up earnings could be a potential risk even at peak 25 kmph speeds.

According to a Niti Aayog report (NITI Aayog (2022), India’s Booming Gig and Platform Economy: Perspectives and Recommendations on the Future of Work. June, 2022), Bengaluru hosts the largest number of platform workers; it has more workers than Mumbai and Chennai combined. The city will surely be the crucible for several experiments in food delivery platforms to drive down costs. Meanwhile, it is the poor delivery “partners” who will serve as the guinea pigs for these experiments.

(Mohan Mani, is a Visiting Fellow, National Law School of India University, Bengaluru)

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.