raising record sums from investors.
Posts by Twitter users @SwiggyDEHyd and @DeliveryBhoy, who say they work Swiggy and Zomato respectively, detailed the poor treatment meted out to delivery staff. Their complaints include a lack of compensation for skyrocketing petrol prices, absence of first-mile pay, lack of long-distance return bonus, and daily earning caps. Their posts have received thousands of likes and retweets.
When we are about to reach our targets app stops assigning orders. Another tactic used by Swiggy to avoid paying us… https://t.co/dJ3orvnf5o
— Swiggy DE (@SwiggyDEHyd) 1627671781000
To avoid paying us long distance return bonus @swiggy_in is extending zones without our consent. Have a look at thi… https://t.co/sO3KW4ZeYx
— Swiggy DE (@SwiggyDEHyd) 1627669552000
The companies claim their delivery partners are paid more than they were at the start of the pandemic, but those we spoke to said their pay is down by up to 60% since the start of the pandemic and they receive on average Rs 15-20 per order. “Many workers are afraid of losing their jobs if they raise their voices. This motivated me to start the Twitter account,” said the person behind SwiggyDE. He said he has been a delivery partner for Swiggy in Hyderabad since 2018. “Increasing petrol prices are a big headache for us and the company is doing nothing,” he added.
I’ve heard about how you care about your workers more often than I’ve heard my own name. Unless you are @deepigoyal… https://t.co/o5dgFjVxwD
— Delivery Bhoy (@DeliveryBhoy) 1627550594000
Despite many sincere appeals to @harshamjty and @deepigoyal to engage in a productive and relevant discussion to ad… https://t.co/5maBtNVBab
— Delivery Bhoy (@DeliveryBhoy) 1627538454000
Dear customer, I understand you don’t give a damn as long as you get your fries-&-nuggets at the cheapest price. Bu… https://t.co/xJys9Qxx1N
— Delivery Bhoy (@DeliveryBhoy) 1627399932000
A 30-year-old delivery partner in Mumbai, who has worked with Zomato for more than three years, said that the company has slashed pay by up to 50% since the start of the pandemic. He said he earns about Rs 15,000 a month after working up to 12 hours a day, six days a week. He also said that raising this issue within the company could have consequences. “They can switch to external parties such as Shadowfax and Rapido.”
Both Swiggy and Zomato have
reported better unit economics as they reduced their aggressive discounting during the pandemic and increased delivery charges. However, delivery partners said these improvements haven’t translated into better pay for them.
Swiggy and Zomato respond
In response to a detailed questionnaire, Swiggy and Zomato claimed that on average, earnings of delivery partners have gone up in the past year, not down.
Zomato claimed that the average amount it pays delivery partners per order has increased by around 20% over the past year. “This is based on additional variable components we have incorporated and continue to add,” the firm said.
Swiggy said that it introduced a permanent petrol component for delivery partners in July, and that this is revised monthly. Zomato said it
revised its fuel rate card in February, and that it automatically increases every month based on the increase in fuel prices.
A Swiggy spokesperson told ET, “While Covid and the resultant lockdowns did have an impact on the earnings of our delivery partners, this has since recovered, and in some cases even surpassed pre-Covid earnings. The increase in food orders coupled with our expansion to other categories (groceries, pickup and drop service) will positively impact delivery partners with increased earnings.”
Rituparna Chakraborty, cofounder and executive vice president at Teamlease, said, “On average if they make 10 deliveries a day and work for 26 days in a month, they will make Rs 12,000-15,000, depending on their location.” Swiggy said that on average, full-time delivery partners earn over Rs 20,000 a month.
But the person behind SwiggyDE said that while the number of orders has increased since the peak of the second wave, they still get less in hand than before the pandemic, and that incentives have been cut, too.
Kaveri Medappa, a doctoral student at the University of Sussex in the UK, has worked with delivery partners at Swiggy and Zomato as part of her research. She said, “Most of these queries go unheard when individuals complain. That’s why they have taken to Twitter to make the general public more aware of their working conditions. Many people have no idea about the risks involved in achieving their targets.”
In the initial months of nationwide lockdown last year, the food-delivery industry saw
orders plummet 70-80% as most restaurants were shut and supply was negligible. Delivery partners said that their pay was slashed, leading to a protest by Swiggy’s delivery partners in September. But demand for delivery partners for e-commerce and food delivery companies has seen double-digit spikes in both metro and non-metros, according to Teamlease, a company that connects blue-collar workers to online platforms.
What about ecommerce delivery staff?
Gig workers in India do not have any formal protection under existing labour laws. The more than three lakh delivery partners of Swiggy and Zomato are part of a fledgling gig economy that also includes delivery partners for ecommerce firms such as Flipkart and Amazon India, which have at least one lakh such workers each.
But the situation is slightly different when it comes to delivery partners that work with ecommerce firms such as Flipkart, Amazon and BigBasket. These jobs are more permanent as these workers are usually on the rolls of third-party firms that have contracts with etailers. Their delivery schedules are also more predictable due to the nature of the business, industry experts said.
Chakraborty, of Teamlease, said a typical delivery partner working for an etailer typically has a fixed basic income (Rs 12,000-15,000 a month, depending on the location) and can earn incentives by making more deliveries. But food delivery partners are typically paid per delivery and have no minimum pay.
But while food delivery firms are seeing higher gross merchandise value or GMV than before the second-wave, etailers and grocery platforms are still facing a shortage of delivery staff. “The pandemic’s impact is still being felt as the migrant labour force is not fully back in urban markets, Chakraborty added. This, she said, was one of the main issues facing companies that TeamLease works with.
A delivery partner with an e-grocery platform said, “My income has largely remained stable. If I want to earn more, I can spend more time making deliveries. At the peak of the lockdown there were even more incentives as many of my colleagues had gone back to their villages.”
Hemant Bandri, senior vice president and head of supply chain at Flipkart, said their delivery executives are offered a monthly salary with provident fund benefits, incentives based on the number of deliveries, and a bonus around the festive season. “In addition to this, they are given tenure-based increments which are paid out every September,” Bandri added. An email sent to Amazon India is yet to elicit a response.
To be sure, ecommerce and grocery delivery executives have also seen the pressure on them increase as more people buy online. For example, Shubhendu (last name withheld), who works for a medicine delivery platform in Kolkata, said his income has increased only marginally even though the number of deliveries has gone up significantly. “Bonus payouts are also low for the number of orders I deliver,” he said.
When will gig workers get social security?
Earlier this year, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman
proposed a social security scheme for gig workers but there has been little or no progress on implementing it, said Shaik Salauddin, founder state president, Telangana Gig And Platform Workers Union, and national general secretary, Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers (IFAT).
He and a group of researchers have released a ‘solidarity statement against exploitation’, calling for pre-pandemic base fares to be reinstated and workers’ compensation and insurance-related issues to be addressed.
Since gig workers do not have any formal protection under the law, they have no legal recourse for the way companies treat them, said Anshul Prakash, partner, employment labour and benefits, Khaitan & Co. “They have to approach the aggregator if they have a problem,” he said.