Despite growing concerns over road safety as speed becomes the primary focus of fast-paced commerce startups, companies such as Blinkit and Zepto have learned to have introduced new incentivized payment terms that include penalizing workers for being late. delivery in some cases.
Delivery workers say the new conditions force them to drive even faster with the controls and make them more likely to break traffic rules, putting themselves and others on the road at risk.
Riders of Zepto, which promises to deliver groceries, fruit, ice cream, vegetables, milk and snacks in 10 minutes, said missing the deadline counts as a ‘breach’ – and if they fail to deliver even after another five minutes have passed, it amounts to an “external violation” for which they are sanctioned by the company.
In addition, the runners said, Zepto had cut its minimum weekly wage by 20% in March. Previously, the company paid them Rs 3,500 guaranteed per week on the condition that they stay logged into the app every seven days; that, the workers said, had been reduced to Rs 2,800. “So if I decide to take time off on Saturday and Sunday, I don’t get paid the guaranteed weekly minimum wage,” said a delivery executive from Zepto, on condition of anonymity.
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Zepto CEO and co-founder Aadit Palicha said not all late deliveries are penalized. Deductions are only made when delivery people engage in “fraud”, he told the Sunday Express. In addition, Palicha said, there is a hotline where workers can register their grievances if they feel the deductions have been unfair.
According to Palicha, the minimum guarantee is useful for runners who work in newer warehouses that don’t usually get many orders per day. “Once stores start taking good orders, we default back to their regular (delivery) prices,” he said.
Recently, a 19-year-old delivery man from Zepto died after an unidentified vehicle hit his two-wheeler from behind in Dwarka, northwest Delhi. Several stakeholders, including lawmakers and police, have repeatedly raised concerns about traffic violations and safety as passengers rush to meet unrealistic delivery times.
Zepto’s main rival, Blinkit, has reduced payment per delivery to workers from Rs 50 to Rs 25 and introduced an incentive-based payment structure similar to that of Zomato. According to the driver-side app accessed by The Sunday Express, Blinkit pays a premium of Rs 100 for delivering 15 orders per day and Rs 150 for delivering 32 orders per day.
Blinkit workers said their daily earnings had dropped by almost 15-20% and they were now forced to deliver orders as quickly as possible in an attempt to meet their daily goals. “Under the old model, if I made 32 orders per day, I would earn Rs 1,600, but under the new model, including the price hike during peak hours, I would earn around Rs 1,350 for the same amount of work,” said a Blinkit worker who declined to be identified. The company did not respond to a detailed questionnaire sent by The Sunday Express.
A cash crunch has forced Blinkit to close more than 50 dark stores and lay off hundreds of its employees in recent weeks. Zepto, meanwhile, closed a $200 million funding round earlier this month at a valuation of $900 million.
Platform companies like Zepto use third-party services to hire delivery people. One such provider is Zypp, which onboards riders for Zepto on a flat monthly fee of Rs 18,000, and also offers them an electric scooter. However, the workers said that if they work even one day less than 28 days per month, Zypp deducts Rs 3,000 from their monthly pay.
Two delivery workers from Blinkit and Zepto told the Sunday Express that their immediate supervisors resorted to verbal abuse if passengers took longer than 10 minutes to deliver an order. Palicha, however, claimed that Zepto’s churn rate was the lowest of any hyperlocal delivery service, and 7% lower than its immediate competitor.
He also said warehouse managers don’t have visibility into individual orders. “If a rider’s order is flagged as suspicious, a manager is alerted who will have a conversation with the rider,” Palicha said.
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In a special crackdown on delivery people who break traffic rules, the Greater Chennai Traffic Police recently registered charges against almost 1,000 delivery people working for platforms such as Swiggy, Zomato and Dunzo.
“We are filing lawsuits against delivery people who commit traffic offenses and informing their respective companies about it. On the day we carried out the special law enforcement campaign…we registered nearly 1,000 cases,” Kapil Kumar C Saratkar, Additional Police Commissioner, Greater Chennai Traffic Police, told The Indian Express. .
“To put that number into perspective, we filed a total of around 8,000 traffic violation cases that day. We believe there are 9,000 of these workers in Chennai, and if 1 000 of them are booked for violating traffic rules in a single day, that’s a huge number,” Saratkar added.