“Please help / support our fighters,” a Chennai-based technician who has been a Jomato delivery worker for a few days, wrote in a post on LinkedIn, explaining the challenges he faces in his brief experience.
Srinivasan Jayaraman, who recently quit his job as an IT analyst at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), joined Jomato for two days at the end of March to understand the problems of daily order providers for restaurant aggregators like Jomato and Suigi Face. .
“As a human being, I just wanted to understand other people’s emotions or their human life, how they live – just for my experience and knowledge,” the 30-year-old software engineer told Gadgets360 in a telephone conversation.
During the coronavirus lockdown, the thought of living as a delivery worker came to Jayaraman. He wanted to know how they were able to work around the clock at a time when people were sitting in their homes for fear of a deadly virus.
Jayaraman decided to write about his experience in a LinkedIn post, which received more than 83,000 responses since it was published last week.
The main challenges that engineers faced when fulfilling order delivery were that the delivery locations of customers and restaurants were not always accurate in the app.
He told Gadgets 360 that in one case, he was unable to deliver orders on time due to receiving multiple orders from a restaurant, but one of them was delivered to an address 14 kilometers away.
The first package of that multiple-order batch needs to be delivered to the nearest place, but it takes 20-30 minutes to complete that delivery. The location was not accurately described in the app and the phone number provided by the restaurant was not the number from which they were calling, he said.
After that order, he had to walk 14 kilometers to place the next order. He got a rupee. 10 tips for that delivery.
“Someone I met while working with Jomato told me that it allocates orders that require covering a distance of even 20-25 kilometers,” he said. “We can’t deny it.”
The engineer advised that Zomato should not be assigned long-distance orders, as customers complain of delays in such cases and this ultimately affects the delivery staff.
Zomato, for its part, claims to provide incentives for long-distance delivery, although it is unclear whether these are effective enough to persuade delivery staff to accept orders in remote locations.
In response to Gadgets 360’s response to Jayraman’s point, a Jomato spokesman said delivery staff could reject orders within a specified time. The app’s timer automatically receives an order after a few minutes if the delivery staff does not reject it and the app runs a “siren” until the timer accepts. The duration of the acceptance timer is different for each delivery partner and is based on their average acceptance time. “So, if someone has an average of three minutes, it will last for four minutes, [giving them an] An extra minute. “
The app also learns that rejected orders can indicate locations where delivery workers don’t want to go, so it starts looking for others. Declining does not affect the driver’s rating if it is done within the stipulated time.
Delivery workers, however, are not allowed to refuse six consecutive orders, the spokesman said.
It is important to note that delivery staff are not able to see the distance to their destination and estimated time of arrival (ETA) before confirming the order pickup. They can, of course, see the total distance of the journey. The spokesman added that 80 per cent of the orders are within a total distance of 6-7 km.
When asked what is the maximum time allowed for delivery, especially in the case of this long-distance route, the spokesperson clarified, “There is no time limit for the order. Even in that case there is a pop-up. [to ask the delivery worker] If our real-time ETA fails. And in case of an accident / emergency an assistant, a co-delivery partner is tagged. “
Shaikh Salauddin, national general secretary of the Indian Federation of App-Based Transport Workers (IFAT) and founder and state president of the Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union (TGPWU), told Gadgets360 that many of the orders the delivery workers received were for positions among the five. And 10km away from the pickup location, some orders were less than 6km and some could go up to 25km.
“The company does not specify a deadline where an order must be fulfilled,” he said. That said, Zomato is involved in time-discipline for staff by actively monitoring the time required to complete a delivery. Occasionally, if the average delivery time is longer, employees are informed of the delay in delivery. “
He further mentioned that the life of delivery agents includes a lot of unpaid work in terms of time and distance.
“Jomato offers a lot of incentives, including long-distance orders. But such incentives do not fully compensate for the distance traveled for an order, ”he said.
Jayaraman opined that Jomato and other such aggregators were basically playing with the psychologists of the delivery workers by pressuring them to fulfill the order delivery as soon as possible.
“What they’re doing is forcing people to make quick deliveries by giving them ratings and points,” he noted. “They cut orders from people who are not able to fulfill existing orders.”
Salauddin agreed with Jayaram and said that the per-delivery earnings model means that a delivery worker earns more when he completes more orders.
“Workers make it internal and motivate themselves to complete quick deliveries so they can order more,” he said.
Another major challenge he faced during his short stint as a delivery worker was the rising cost of fuel that was affecting workers’ earnings. He also mentioned that Zomato and other key app aggregators do not have comprehensive health insurance for their delivery staff.
These companies only have basic insurance for their delivery staff, which is not the same as what we usually get with a corporate job, he said.
Zomato spokesman Gadgets 360 said the company provides health and accident insurance to its delivery workers and their dependents. They can also get online consultation with a doctor.
Salauddin admits that Zomato offers insurance to its riders, but, he mentioned, there are many problems when trying to claim it.
“When an accident occurs, claimants do not know that insurance exists, or even if they are aware, they do not have access to the insurance details required to make a claim,” he said. “There are also a number of conditions that an employee must meet in order to make an insurance claim.”
Insurance offered by delivery workers does not cover treatment against serious conditions such as kidney failure, paralysis, or cancer, as these workers are on contract and not on company pay.
Zomato demanded last year to help delivery workers in the face of rising fuel prices Introduced A variable pay component. It intends to automatically change the payments made to delivery staff based on changes in fuel prices.
Salauddin argued that the variable pay component introduced by Zomato does not help supply suppliers meet the rising cost of fuel. The Delivery Workers Union, including IFAT, claims that these costs should be paid directly to customers.
“Without increasing the price of fuel [for customers]Transport workers, including delivery workers, are being made ‘shock absorbers’ of fuel and essential commodities, “said Salauddin.
The LinkedIn post received some comments from people who had previously worked as delivery staff for Zomato and other companies. Jomato also reached out to the engineer so that he can get clarity on the challenges highlighted in the post.
“Delivery partners are the ones who make Zomato possible every day with every order,” the company says in response to the original post.
Jayaraman told Gadgets 360 that the purpose of his post was not to popularize or criticize a particular company. This was to indicate the problems that the delivery staff encountered while filling out the order.
“It’s not as easy as people think,” he said. “We should respect these workers … a lot of people who have an engineering degree or something [qualifications] In some cases, he even works as a delivery worker. “
Ayush Rathi, a senior researcher at the Center for Internet and Society, told Gadgets360 that the hardships that Jayaraman faced as a temporary delivery worker were an endless, everyday reality for millions of workers.
“The post presents a number of challenges responsible for poor technical design, but there is much more that can be attributed to the exploitative business and work conditions created by the labor models of platform companies,” he said.
Rathi further stressed that these problems have serious implications when gig work is not the only source of income for a person and does not stop at two white-collar jobs.
“Despite the various efforts of the platform, the condition of the gig workers, the story of heroism cannot be celebrated,” he said. “No one has to work in a situation that is not even a living wage in the end. Platform companies need to start taking full responsibility for the working conditions of Gig workers and policymakers need to move faster. We need to start paying more attention to Gig workers and their movement.”