It was an important day for the thousands of gig-workers across India. The founder of Zomato, one of the largest food delivery companies in India announced on 16 Feb. ’23 through Twitter that the company is creating “Rest Points” for its delivery partners aka riders who serve the last mile between a restaurant & the customer. This has been one of the biggest qualms of riders and their empathisers, including several customers that the guys who are already stressed out delivering orders in the fastest instance are not well treated by the restaurant partners or their own employers.
We enquired with several restaurants and that doesn’t seem to be case largely. Many restaurants offer not just a resting place and drinking water but at times, also offer food on the house to the delivery partners. Yes, many of them do not allow the delivery boys and girls to use restroom and other facilities which are meant for their customers. But Zomato (and Swiggy) never created a resting zone or a waiting area for the delivery partners. Nor has there been an established price point for the gig workers to purchase food from the said restaurants.
One of the ironies of capitalism, as Lee Iacocca termed while working at Ford Motors and contradicting the philosophy of his then boss Henry Ford I, was that those who made Ford Cars could never own them.
In fact, the entire model of food delivery was created on the premise that the delivery partners would simply pick the food which is kept ready to be delivered; however with a surge in orders due to popularity of the delivery service, coupled with attractive discounts and most importantly, convenience at doorstep, the number of orders surged around 2017-19. Once Covid-19 led lockdown began, the food business including delivery halted for a while. With best practices being promoted and advertised, the delivery business was back in action by Dec. ‘2020. So much so, that the Investors of Zomato decided to take the company to an IPO. The jury is out whether this business would ever make profits.
Come 2022, delivery business slowed down while dine-in increased tremendously. It was revenge-dining as customers gate crashed to grab their bites. To sustain the margins given to the delivery companies, restaurants increased their prices for online orders. Only those who were willing to pay extra – from 15% to 50% of the restaurant prices continue to order online. Others, have either skipped ordering completely or order occasionally. This has led to the delivery staff getting demotivated, losing their gig-jobs and eventually lots of protests over the months by delivery partners of Swiggy and Zomato over wages and commissions.
The idea of creating resting points by Zomato is indeed a welcome move and timely.
In a blog published on their website, Zomato said, “These rest points are more than just a place to take a break between deliveries. They offer clean drinking water, phone-charging stations, access to washrooms, high-speed internet, a 24×7 helpdesk and first-aid support. We believe that by providing a space for all delivery partners to rest, recharge, and take a moment for themselves, we can create a better environment that promotes their physical and mental health“.
Founder Deepinder Goyal announced the same on his Twitter handle as well.
Announcing 'The Shelter Project' – we've started building public infrastructure (Rest Points) to support the well being of delivery partners of various companies.
— Deepinder Goyal (@deepigoyal) February 16, 2023
Though this display of affection in public is symbolic, it is a great beginning. Similar last mile providers (read: drivers) of product companies (or their manufacturers), say ITC, Coca Cola, TATA Group, etc. are given a very decent and comfortable accommodation within the factory premises most often to rest. However, gig-workers in India have been left to themselves to find a way of comfort. Glad to see this changing, finally.
As the saying goes, “If you do not take care of your employees, then someone else will“.