“Please help/support our warriors,” a technician from Chennai who became a Zomato delivery man for a few days wrote in a post on LinkedIn, explaining the challenges he faced during his short experience.
Srinivasan Jayaraman, who recently left his job as an IT analyst at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), joined Zomato for two days at the end of March to understand the problems faced by order deliverers for restaurant aggregators such as Zomato and Swiggy. .
“As a human, I just wanted to understand other human emotions or their human life, how they live — just for my experience and knowledge,” the 30-year-old software engineer told Gadgets 360 during a phone call.
The idea of living the life of a delivery man came to Jayaraman during the coronavirus lockdown. He wanted to know how they are able to work around the clock at a time when people are largely sitting at home fearing the deadly virus.
Jayaraman decided to write about his experience in a post on LinkedIn, which has received reactions from more than 83,000 people since it was posted last week.
One of the main challenges the engineer faced when delivering orders was that customer and restaurant delivery locations were not always accurate in the app.
He told Gadgets 360 that in one instance, he was unable to deliver the orders on time because he received multiple orders from a single restaurant, but one of them had to be delivered to an address. 14km away.
The first package in this batch of multiple orders was supposed to be delivered nearby, but it took 20-30 minutes to make that delivery. The location was not accurately described in the app and the phone number provided by the restaurant was not the number they were calling from, he said.
After this order, he had to travel 14 km to deliver the next order. He received a Rs. 10 tip for this delivery.
“Someone I met when I worked with Zomato told me that he assigns commands that require covering distances of even 20-25 km,” he said. “We cannot deny it.
The engineer suggested that Zomato should not assign long-distance orders as customers complain about delays in such cases, which ultimately impacts delivery people.
Zomato, for its part, claims to offer incentives for long-distance deliveries, although it’s unclear whether these are effective enough in persuading delivery people to accept orders to distant locations.
Responding to Gadgets 360 on the points raised by Jayaraman, a Zomato spokesperson said delivery people can refuse orders within a stipulated time frame. The app’s timer automatically accepts an order after a few minutes if the delivery person doesn’t refuse it, and a “siren” runs on the app until the timer is recognized. The length of acceptance time differs for each delivery partner and is based on their average acceptance time. “So if someone has an average decline in three minutes, it will be four minutes, [giving them an] one more minute.”
The app also learns that declined orders may indicate places the delivery person doesn’t want to go, so it starts looking for others. The refusal does not affect the driver’s score if it is done within the time limit.
Deliverers are not allowed to refuse six consecutive orders, however, the spokesperson said.
It is important to note that delivery people are not able to see the distance and estimated time of arrival (ETA) for their destination before confirming the pickup of the order. They can, however, see the total distance of the trip. The spokesperson added that 80% of the orders are within a total radius of 6 to 7 km.
When asked what was the maximum time allowed for a delivery, particularly in the case of these long-distance routes, the spokesperson clarified: “There is no time limit that could be set for an order And even then, there is a pop- at the top [to ask the delivery worker] if our real-time ETA falters. And in the event of an accident/emergency, an assistant, a co-delivery partner, is identified.”
Shaik Salauddin, National General Secretary of the Indian Federation of Application Based Transport Workers (IFAT) and Founder and Chairman of Telangana State Gig and Platform Workers Union (TGPWU), told Gadgets 360 that although many Orders received by delivery people were for locations between five and 10 km from the pick-up location, some orders were within 6 km and some could even be as far as 25 km.
“The company doesn’t mention a time frame in which an order must be fulfilled,” he said. “That said, Zomato engages in time discipline for workers by actively monitoring the time it takes to make a delivery. Sometimes, if the average delivery time is higher, workers are notified of the late delivery.”
He also pointed out that the lives of delivery agents include a lot of unpaid work in terms of time and distance.
“Zomato offers many incentives, including long distance orders. But such incentives do not fully compensate for the distance traveled for an order,” he said.
Jayaraman felt that Zomato and other such aggregators are essentially playing with the psychology of delivery people by pushing them to fulfill order deliveries as quickly as possible.
“What they’re doing is pushing people to deliver fast by giving them the ratings and points they have,” he noted. “They’re cutting orders from people who aren’t able to fulfill existing orders.”
Salauddin agreed with Jayaram’s review and said the pay-per-delivery model meant a delivery person earned more when they completed more orders.
“Workers tend to internalize that and motivate themselves to make deliveries quickly so they can process more orders,” he said.
Another big challenge he faced during his short stint as a delivery man was the rising cost of fuel which is impacting workers’ incomes. He also pointed out that Zomato and other key app aggregators do not have comprehensive health insurance for their delivery people.
These companies only have basic insurance for their delivery people, which is not up to what we normally get with a corporate job, he said.
Zomato’s spokesperson told Gadgets 360 that the company provides health and accident insurance for its delivery people and their dependents. They can also get an online consultation with a doctor.
Salauddin acknowledged that Zomato provides insurance for its riders, but, he noted, many problems arise when they try to claim it.
“When an accident occurs, claimants don’t know insurance exists, or even if they do, they don’t have access to the insurance details needed to claim it,” he said. declared. “There are also a lot of terms and conditions that a worker must meet to claim the insurance.”
The insurance offered to delivery workers does not cover treatment for critical illnesses such as kidney failure, paralysis or cancer, as these workers are on contract and not on the company payroll.
Claiming to help delivery workers in the face of rising fuel prices, Zomato last year introduced a variable compensation component. This is intended to automatically change payments made to delivery people based on changing fuel prices.
Salauddin argued that the variable compensation component introduced by Zomato does not help delivery people cope with the rising cost of fuel. Delivery unions, including IFAT, are demanding that this cost be passed on directly to customers.
“By not raising fuel prices [for customers]transport workers, including delivery workers, become “shock absorbers” of rising fuel and commodity prices,” Salauddin said.
The LinkedIn post received comments from people who previously worked as delivery people for Zomato and other companies. Zomato has also reached out to the engineer for clarification on the challenges he highlights in the post.
“Delivery partners are the ones who make Zomato possible every day with every order,” the company says in its response to the original post.
Jayaraman told Gadgets 360 that the purpose of his post was not to become popular or to criticize any particular company. This was just to highlight the difficulties faced by delivery people when fulfilling orders.
“It’s not as easy as people think,” he said. “We have to respect these workers… So many people who have engineering degrees or other [qualifications] also work as delivery people due to certain circumstances.”
Aayush Rathi, a senior fellow at the Center for Internet and Society, told Gadgets 360 that the difficulties Jayaraman temporarily faced as a delivery man were the unending daily reality of millions of workers.
“The message presents several challenges attributable to poor technology design, but there is so much more that can be attributed to the working conditions created by the exploitative business and labor models of platform companies,” he said. he declares.
Rathi also pointed out that these issues have serious implications when gig work is an individual’s only source of income and not a stopgap between two white-collar jobs.
“Working conditions for workers, despite the platforms’ various attempts, are not stories of heroism to be celebrated,” he said. “No one should have to work under such conditions to earn what ultimately isn’t even a living wage. Platform companies must start taking full responsibility for the working conditions of site workers, and policymakers must Act quickly. We need to start paying more attention to gig workers and their movements.”