Delivery! - Come Hell or High Water
“Not only have the rains taken a toll on my income, it has also taken a toll on my health”
“This job is not enough. I cannot afford to work full time, so my earnings from food delivery is not enough. Especially with these rains, I have had fever twice in the last two weeks,” says Rahul Das, 19 year old delivery partner with Swiggy.
Rahul Das is a 19 year old college student in his first year, studying Biology. He works for Swiggy part time, and delivers orders in the South Kolkata region. He says that he is only able to dedicate four to five hours to Swiggy, because he attends college in the mornings.
This is Rahul’s second year as a delivery partner, and his first time working through the monsoons. “Not only have the rains taken a toll on my income, it has also taken a toll on my health,” he says. The recent heavy spells in Kolkata, unlike during the first few days of the Amphan, did not excuse delivery executives from their duties. Restaurants were very much still open, and orders on the food delivery apps had shot up, as they usually do, when people are confined to their homes.
Last week, he had to make five deliveries, all far apart from each other, in the Tollygunge area. “These distances that usually take a maximum of 15 minutes to cover that day took me 45 mins or more each,” Rahul tells The Citizen. “And after the fifth delivery my Scooty broke down. I was stranded by the street and had to divert my next delivery to someone else.”
Earlier this year, Zomato announced new payment schemes for their delivery partners, to account for the rising fuel prices in India. A reported hike of INR 1 for every 100 metres, beyond the initial 5.5 km was made on the original pay. “But this does not help us when our vehicles get damaged due to the rains,” says Surjo Shom, 22. As stated by Mohit Sardana, COO of Food Delivery at Zomato, in an interview to Gadgets 360.
“When we drive through the waterlogged roads, it is obvious our bikes and scooters will get spoiled, isn’t it?” This is apart from the risk it poses for their health. “It is not an office job, where you travel in the rain, reach your destination and that’s it. Our whole job is on the road - we have to wait on the road, pickup on the road, deliver on the road. We do not arrive at an office with a ceiling overhead.”
Shom says that bikes are still more reliable than scooters in the rain, but the maintenance costs are evidently higher, adding that cycles are impractical and dangerous in those storms.
“Another problem is that while most customers are understanding, some are very impatient. They get very angry about the delays during the rainy season. How do I explain that if they had stepped out on the road to get their own food, it would have taken them the same amount of time. Just because I am a delivery boy I cannot drive faster than them in the rain.”
The likelihood of any delivery boy getting five star ratings during the rainy season is very low, Shom tells The Citizen. “Only yesterday I got into a fight because this man was shouting because the delivery was 10 minutes late,” he recalls. “It was not raining in his area, but it was in the area where he had ordered from. And it was a large family order and it is a big restaurant so naturally it took some time….. It was drizzling and the roads were slightly waterlogged from the previous night’s showers.” Shom says that when he arrived at the home with the order, after several interrogatory calls from the customer - he was faced with yells and a one star rating. “He was so rude. For no reason.”
During the last spell of rains, Shom had to spend INR 3000 on the repairs for his bike. “This amount is my whole income on some slow weeks of delivery duty. It feels bad to spend the same on these repairs. It almost felt like I didn’t even earn the money it was spent so fast.”
“I had blisters on my feet because I was cycling through waterlogged roads for three days straight. The water was dirty and after a few hours my feet started burning a little. I had to take a break for two days or else I would develop an infection.”
According to the Zomato salary payment system for delivery partners, they stand to make about INR 26000-28000 as confirmed by the partners themselves. However, this is only if they log 60-65 hours every week. Which is about 9 hours a day including weekends.
Most of these youngsters deliver food as their part time jobs, after they wind up with their day jobs or their college classes. They cannot afford to be dedicating 8-9 hours everyday on their vehicles to deliver food. The National General Secretary of IFAT (Indian Federation of App Based Transport Workers, Salauddin Shaikh, in a statement said that the main issue is that Zomato calculates payment based on distance covered and number of deliveries made.
With the coming of the new payment schemes, these benchmarks have remained the same but the corroborating pay brackets have reduced.
Bishnu Dey, 20, says that on a daily basis, in the three to four hours that he logs every day, he can complete up to 10 deliveries, “Maybe 11 or 12 deliveries on the good days,” he says. “It is not possible for us to make 19-23 orders a day,” he says.
Speaking of the rainy days especially, he says, “It is physically very draining for us to wade through knee deep water. I know this is our job, but sometimes it feels almost inhuman, the conditions that we have to work in.”
Bishnu works with Zomato as a delivery partner and earns about INR 15000 in a week. He works part time and is completing his BBA course in college. “I think it is doubly difficult for me because I have a cycle and not a bike. It would have been good if I had a bike. Deliveries would be quicker, even in the rain bikes will not break down as easily.”
“Weeds and pieces of cloth will get stuck in the chain of my cycle, the wheels will get caught in some garbage on the street, and it is all under the dirty water, so we cannot see. My feet keep dipping in the water, once I got cut because I could not see a broken bottle that was floating in the water logged roads.”
Jatin Ray, owner of Snacks and Grill, a homemade meals outlet in Netaji Nagar, attends to at least 20-30 deliveryboy every day. “We make homely meals, so we have many loyal customers who order their regular meals from us. Since people get discounts from Zomato and Swiggy, they prefer to order on these apps.”
Speaking of the delivery partners he says, “They are very hard working. I see some of them everyday because they work in this area. I will see some of them two or three times in a day because they come back for repeat orders. It was very sad to see them during the storms. I cannot do anything because the business has to go on. But these children work in terrible conditions sometimes.”
Ray recalls that the raincoats and umbrellas the delivery partners carry do not hold up against the harsh storms. “The advantage is that now we get business even during these storms. But when I see these children getting drenched out there waiting for an order on someone else’s behalf, it really saddens me.”