Business Standard

Carrying Diwali gifts to others, delivery agents hang on to incentive hopes

Delivery partners, riders or executives. Their designations are different, the mission the same shouldering outsized backpacks crammed with everything from lipsticks to lamps, and maybe even laptops


Representative image

Press Trust of India New Delhi
Delivery partners, riders or executives. Their designations are different, the mission the same shouldering outsized backpacks crammed with everything from lipsticks to lamps, and maybe even laptops, as they zigzag through streets delivering necessities and festivities to our doorsteps.
It's Diwali but one edged with anxiety for the band of men on motorcycles and cycles, a familiar sight in cities across India whose work becomes more frantic during festivals. Making an average of Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 a month, they hope to earn an incentive, or at least a box of sweets in the season.
Chandan, who works with a logistics company that handles couriers for brands such as FirstCry, Snapdeal and Ajio, is one of them. He usually delivers 50-60 parcels a day but this can go as high as 100 during Diwali.
Does he get something by way of an incentive for Diwali after working to fulfil orders?

The 30-year-old responded with an emphatic no.
Let alone incentives, I will count myself lucky if I am allowed a day off for Diwali. I earn Rs 14,000 per month but that's about it. The chances of getting one on this year looks grim as of now. I have got no intimation so far, Chandan, who is in his 30s, told PTI during a delivery run.
Carrying a backpack that can weigh nearly 50 kg, Chandan has developed back pain that he has been nursing for about two years.
It's a tough job, say the young men, most of them requesting that their full names not be used.
With their bags filled to the brim with branded clothes, electronics, items of home decor and other festive paraphernalia, the delivery executives go up and down stairs, sometimes even in high-rises when lifts are not working, argue with guards to be let in, deal with customer moods and battle traffic snarls as they look to meet deadlines. It's all in a day's work.
While people look forward to Diwali sales and attractive discount offers on e-commerce websites to buy things for themselves and to gift, the promise of more money at the end of it keeps the young men going.
Unlike Chandan, Sonu, who is in his 20s and works for an e-commerce company, doesn't have a motorcycle. He mostly uses a cycle to make his deliveries.
"It becomes very hectic around Diwali. I can comfortably deliver 30-40 parcels but this goes up to 60 during festivals. When the number of orders increases, I request the company to give me a bike for the day," he said, refusing to name his employer.
Starting at Rs 7,000 per month, Sonu's take home has gone up to about Rs 13,000 in four years. There is nothing in the name of incentive.
"I'd be glad if they give something extra during the festive season," Sonu added.
According to Dathathreya Raju BM, founder of the NGO Delivery Boys Welfare Association, delivery executives come under the most ignored segment of workers across the country.
"They don't get talked about unless they go on a strike. There are no job benefits, no retirement plans, no PFs or other benefits that come with a proper job. Their salaries are meagre and there is no structure for appraisals in this segment. There is also no way for them to approach authorities for grievance redressal," the Bengaluru-based Dathathreya told PTI.
Stories shared by those like Sonu and Chandan don't exude confidence in the gig economy. But there are other experiences too.
Fazil, who works for fashion brand Myntra, said the work is hard with long hours but he doesn't have much to complain about.
Fazil, who has been working for the last four years, manages to earn Rs 15,000-20,000 by delivering 35-40 packets a day through the year. This jumps to more than 60 on days around Diwali, said Fazil, who is in his 20s and is paid Rs 15 per delivery.
"The more you deliver, the more you earn. I am also insured by the company and they give us a box of sweets for Diwali," Fazil said.
The delivery boys are one end of this ecosystem. At the other are e-commerce companies, including biggies such as Amazon, Flipkart and Myntra for whom Diwali season means doubling down on planning and implementing strategies.
Discussing the steps taken, an Amazon spokesperson told PTI that the company "weighs a variety of factors" when deciding staffing plans for the year and especially during the festive season.
"This year, in time for the festive season, we created more than 70,000 seasonal opportunities for individuals across the country. They joined Amazon's existing network of associates and will support them to pick, pack, ship, and deliver customer orders safely and efficiently," he said.
For some, festive happiness comes in the shape of food. And so, food aggregator services like Swiggy and Zomato also have to bring all hands on deck around Diwali.
Swiggy alone uses more than 2.7 lakh delivery executives, according to its website.
With a smartphone attached to his motorbike's handle for navigation, Deepak, a delivery partner for Swiggy, zooms through the wide roads of Lutyens' Delhi just as deftly as he manoeuvres through the winding lanes of west Delhi's Ramesh Nagar.
He shares Fazil's mantra when it comes to work, "the more you deliver, the more you earn".
"Rs 20 is the minimum amount you can earn delivering food, maximum depends on how far you have to go for the delivery," Deepak said.
The number of deliveries around Diwali doesn't change much, he added, but the distance increases.
"Nobody wants to step out of the house for Rs 20. Also, you cannot reject many orders during the festive season as the company might deduct your entire day's incentives," he said.
He earns Rs 200 as incentive for each earning of Rs 425. For Diwali, the company used to give a box of sweets. The tradition ended during the pandemic.
This broken tradition of receiving box of sweets during Diwali might resume this year with some extra perks, a Swiggy spokesperson hinted.
"Festivals are always a time when people look forward to celebrating with family and friends. We continue to register an upward trend in orders and this is likely to remain so in the coming weeks.
"As a result, we are continuing to onboard thousands of delivery partners across markets. Delivery partners will get festival incentives during this time," he said.
Deepak and many others complain about the behaviour of some customers.
"I feel like shouting back at them at times. If you are stuck in traffic and the customer becomes abusive, it just doesn't feel good," he said, adding that the company doesn't deduct their earnings unless it's the driver's fault.
The likes of Chandan, Sonu Fazil and Deepak will keep delivering happiness to innumerable households, sometimes in hope of something better, at others just to do their jobs.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Oct 22 2022 | 5:19 PM IST

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