Tuesday March 26, 2019
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Food Apps India’s Growing Gig-Economy, Says Delivery Men

"We work 12 hours straight in soaring heat and heavy rains. Sometimes I don't even have time to eat," he added.

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App, swiggy, Uber eats
Delivery man Ujjwal Singhal working with the food delivery app Swiggy carries an order to a customer in New Delhi, India, Feb. 6, 2019,. VOA

Suraj Nachre works long hours and regularly misses meals but he treasures his job as a driver for a food delivery startup — working in a booming industry that highlights India’s expanding apps-based gig-economy.

The 26-year-old is one of hundreds of thousands of young Indians who, armed with their smartphones and motorcycles, courier dinners to offices and homes ordered at the swipe of a finger.

A surge in the popularity of food-ordering apps like Uber Eats and Swiggy provides a welcome source of income for many as India’s unemployment rate sits at a reported 45-year high.

But they also shine a spotlight on the prevalence of short-term contracts in the economy, raising questions about workers’ rights and conditions and the long-term viability of the jobs.

“(These delivery workers) are treated as independent contractors so labor laws governing employees are not applicable and they lack job security,” Gautam Ghosh, a human resources consultant, told AFP.

“While jobs created by food delivery apps are crucial, they may not exist in 10 years so for the majority of youngsters they are a stopgap arrangement,” he added.

India’s army of food delivery drivers, mostly men but some women too, became a talking point on social media late last year when a rider for the Zomato platform was filmed sampling a customer’s order.

Swiggy, Uber eats, food apps
A surge in the popularity of food-ordering apps like Uber Eats and Swiggy provides a welcome source of income for many as India’s unemployment rate sits at a reported 45-year high. Pixabay

The video, apparently shot on a mobile phone, showed the man taking bites from several food parcels before wrapping them again. It sparked anger online and he was promptly sacked.

Rushing around

Many internet users rallied to his defense, however. They insisted that the two-minute clip showed he was hungry and desperate, and said Zomato had acted harshly in dismissing him.

“It is a challenging job,” said Nachre, expressing sympathy for the unnamed delivery man who was working in the southern city of Madurai before being fired.

“We work 12 hours straight in soaring heat and heavy rains. Sometimes I don’t even have time to eat,” he added.

Nachre drives for the Scootsy platform. He leaves home at 9:00 am and does not return until after 1:00 am. Navigating Mumbai’s abysmal traffic makes work stressful, he says.

“We’re always in a rush to deliver and customers keep calling us. We know we have to be on our toes all the time or customers might complain and we may lose our jobs,” Nachre told AFP.

India’s food delivery apps, backed by major international investment, are offering new avenues of employment for Indian youngsters who lack higher education but possess a driving license.

Their importance to the likes of Nachre was highlighted recently when a leaked government report said India’s unemployment rate was 6.1 percent in 2017-18, the highest since the 1970s.

“This job is lucrative,” said Nachre, who has no post-school qualifications and earns a minimum of 18,000 rupees ($253) a month.

In his previous job running errands at an office he made only 8,000 rupees.

The app-based food delivery industry is worth an estimated $7 billion to Asia’s third-largest economy, according to market research firm Statista, and is expanding rapidly.

 

Swiggy, uber eats, food app
Delivery men working with the food delivery apps Uber Eats and Swiggy wait to pick up an order outside a restaurant in Mumbai, India, Feb. 6, 2019. VOA

Swiggy announced at the end of last year that it had received $1 billion in funding from foreign backers including South Africa’s Naspers and China’s Tencent.

Foreign investment

That put the valuation of the five-year-old company, headquartered in Bangalore, at more than $3 billion.

Zomato, Swiggy’s nearest challenger for market dominance, is being aggressively backed by Alibaba’s Ant Financial. The Chinese giant recently pumped in $210 million, valuing the Delhi-based startup at $2 billion.

The food delivery platforms are soaring as India’s growing middle classes take advantage of better smartphone connectivity and cheap data plans that are fueling a gig economy centered on technology.

Informal, casual labor has long been the bedrock of India’s economy but now Indians can access a host of services on their phones from hiring a rickshaw to booking a plumber or yoga teacher.

FlexingIt, a global consulting agency, estimates the country’s gig economy has the potential to grow up to $30 billion by 2025.

Analysts say it is time the government started to regulate the sector.

“There is no regulator overlooking this sector. Working conditions definitely need to get better for these workers,” Anurag Mahur, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers told AFP.

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Thirty-year-old Tushar Khandagale, who delivers for Zomato, is the sole breadwinner in his family.

With millions of youngsters entering India’s workforce every year and looking for a job, Khandagale would relish a long-term contract that offered him some security.

“I hope to stay in this job. It pays well and my family depend on me,” he said. (VOA)

Next Story

Online Food Ordering and Delivery App Swiggy Widens its Scope by Launching Stores

The petition, first reported in January, accused Swiggy, Zomato, Uber Eats and Foodpanda of misusing their dominance by engaging in practices like deep discounting, in-house kitchens and internal sourcing

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Swiggy
Founded in 2014, Swiggy claims to have 50,000 restaurant partners

Swiggy, domestic online food ordering and delivery app, on Tuesday launched Stores – a platform where one can order groceries, health supplements, meat and other daily amenities to be delivered at users’ doorsteps.

“Swiggy Stores extends the option of ordering food from nearby restaurants to anything from any store across your city,” Sriharsha Majety, Co-Founder and CEO of Swiggy, wrote in a blog-post.

Stores would connect people to every store, retailer or brand — both online and offline — and deliver goods within an hour, Majety claimed.

“We’re taking first step by launching Stores across Gurugram and will deliver from over 3,500 outlets across the city. We’ve partnered with over 200 stores in categories like fruits and vegetables to florists and pet care stores,” Majety said.

Swiggy has partnered with brands like Apollo Pharmacy, Health HK Art, Guardian Pharmacy, and online meat ordering platform Licious and Ferns N Petals.

Swiggy
Swiggy will use the funds to bring more quality food brands closer to consumers.

“We are launching Stores in beta for now, while we fine-tune the service to make sure it meets the standards that we, at Swiggy, hold ourselves to,” Majety said.

The platform, made available within the main Swiggy app, has also been designed to act as a directory of popular stores and lists bestsellers, the post said.

Also Read- Google Revamps its Emailing Platform ‘Gmail’

Swiggy’s new platform comes amid controversies ignited by hundreds of restaurant owners sending a petition to the Competition Commission of India (CCI) alleging wrongdoings by food delivery companies.

The petition, first reported in January, accused Swiggy, Zomato, Uber Eats and Foodpanda of misusing their dominance by engaging in practices like deep discounting, in-house kitchens and internal sourcing. (IANS)