The goods, the bad, and the ugly in grocery jobs.
They're the wheels turning India's $20-billion e-commerce juggernaut as it gathers momentum in a country that's never had a more kingly consumer experience. Make a purchase online and it's delivered in hours. But while the global eye is invariably on the business- its rounds of funding and revenue the delivery staff who carry the weight of modern retail often go unnoticed.
However, the recent agitation in Mumbai by delivery men from eKart, Flipkart's logistics division, has raised questions about fair labour practices followed by manpower and logistics companies.
Raja Sekhar Reddy, CEO and director of Innovsource, a staffing company in Mumbai, estimates there are around 100,000 delivery staff across the country and only 20% of them are in the formal sector.
Do they really work an alleged 15-hour day and get no accident cover? One of the striking workers, 27-year-old Avinash Chandramani Kamble, who has joined labour union, Maharashtra NavNirman Kamgar Sena,
complains, "Newcomers are told they'll have to deliver about 30 parcels a day; but in reality 60 to 70 is their minimum target. Besides my basic salary of Rs 10,000, I'm paid Rs 3.50 to deliver a package,
which is meant to cover fuel, maintenance and parking. It doesn't leave me much." Kamble says eKart's delivery men have not been given their ESIC (Employees' State Insurance Corporation) cards (a social security for workers),
which includes accident cover.When a colleague was hit by a car on the job, the first thing my supervisor said was, recover his money pouch and parcels. The man had to pay for his own treatment."
Flipkart disputes allegations of exploitative work conditions, claiming it's a politically-minded agitation. "Only 25 of our 850 deliverymen in Mumbai have joined the strike.
It goes to show that the majority are happy to work at Flipkart," says Neeraj Aggarwal, senior director, Delivery Operations at Flipkart.
They appreciate our incentive schemes which reward them with an additional Rs 4 a package for every one delivered above the basic 750-800 monthly quota," he says.
Denying claims that workers are overworked, Aggarwal explains that high volume areas have expectedly more shipments but delivery vans rather than bikes are dispatched to these places,
and the field executives have to cover a smaller, though denser, 10-20km radius. "They come in by 7.30am, sort packages, receive their itineraries and leave for fieldwork by 9am. By 5pm they wrap up.
It gives them work-life balance," he claims.
However, another eKart employee reveals they typically end their day at 10pm. Kumar (name changed) is not striking because he fears repercussions.
I met with an accident on the job, had nine stitches and was recovering at home for a month but didn't get paid for it," he says.
The heat can make you dizzy on a bike, Kumar says. "It's a little better delivering in a van, but they've raised our monthly target from 700 to 1,000 packages,
after which incentives apply," he says. With the earlier target, Kumar did make Rs 1,500 to 1,700 extra in busy months, but the new target looks tough.
For boys on bikes, it's literally a back-breaking job. "Imagine having to carry a 40kg bag up several flights of stairs.
In a van, you can leave your bag behind," says Kamble, who covers Fort, where many of the buildings lack elevators. "In posh societies, we're sometimes not allowed to use the elevator.
We then have to climb up and down as many as ten floors." In a business where time is money, congested cities like Mumbai and Delhi can make locating an address a 20-minute exercise, even with GPS.
Another problem is fake currency customers sometimes slip in. When discovered, the delivery staff is expected to make good on the fraud.
When we're racing to meet our delivery goals, we can't stand around checking notes in dim corridors," says a 22-year-old with a grocery startup in Delhi.
In the rare case of theft too, it's the field executive who coughs up.
Despite the challenges, the job's an income-earner and men are drawn to it. Moreover, as e-com companies expand and are closely audited by investors,
they're learning to honour labour laws and are incentivizing delivery.To know details visit our site http://www.allindiayellowpage.com