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Overworked & Rushed: Woes of Delivery Execs Amid Swiggy’s Ambulance Service

What do delivery executives think about the ambulance service and the inherent rush of their job?

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(This article was first published on 21 January 2023. It has been reposted from The Quint's archives after the release of 'Zwigato' – a Bollywood movie that sheds light on the plight of gig workers in India.) 

"Many accidents have happened but no ambulance came then. I am not aware of this service being implemented. It will be helpful," said 24-year-old Chandrashekhar, while parked along with other delivery workers under a tree in Noida's sector 29.

Food delivery app Swiggy, on 16 January, announced the rollout of a free ambulance service to help its active delivery executives and their dependents in case of emergencies. "The process will require no documentation; delivery executives only need to confirm their partner ID," the company said in a statement. 

Dr Anamitra Roy Chowdhury, Assistant Professor at the Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), however, told The Quint, that while the ambulance service is appreciated, the reason why accidents happen is not being addressed.

The Quint also reached out to a gig workers unions and delivery executives to understand what they think about the service, their current working conditions, and the inherent rush of their job.

Overworked & Rushed: Woes of Delivery Execs Amid Swiggy’s Ambulance Service

  1. 1. What's the Scheme?

    With Swiggy's new ambulance service, the delivery executives can reach out on a toll-free number or simply tap the SOS button without leaving the partner app, in the case of an emergency before, during, or after a delivery to access the free ambulance service.

    This comes on the heels of the death of two Swiggy delivery executives in January: 23-year-old Mohd. Rizwan in Hyderabad and 24-year-old Kaushal Yadav.

    • On 11 January, Rizwan fell from the third floor of a building in Hyderabad after allegedly trying to evade a customer's dog. He succumbed to his injuries three days later.

    • On 14 January, Yadav died after he met with an accident near sector 14 flyover in Noida. The victim’s body was allegedly dragged for 500 metres.

    In a statement, the food delivery app said:

    "Swiggy has launched this service pan-India after piloting the service in Bangalore, Delhi, NCR, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune, and Kolkata. In the test runs and the cases raised so far, the service's response time has been an average of 12 minutes."

    Swiggy has tied up with Dial4242 which can dispatch different Ambulances such as BLS (Basic Life Support) ambulances, Cardiac ambulances, ALS (Advanced Life Support), Inter-state ambulances, COVID-19 ambulances, and Hearse Vans based on the severity of the case.

    "The service is free for all active delivery executives and their dependents (spouses and two children), who are covered under the insurance provided by Swiggy. Delivery executives can also choose to avail the ambulance for family members not covered under their insurance at a subsidised cost," Swiggy stated.

    The food delivery app also said that the process will require no documentation; delivery executives only need to confirm their partner ID.

    It added, "They (delivery executives) receive benefits such as accident insurance and medical cover, personal loans, legal assistance, COVID income support, income support during accident or illness recovery, bereavement leaves, period time off, and maternity cover among others."

    Expand
  2. 2. What Do Experts Have To Say?

    "The accidents or the rush to deliver something quickly is much more structural, in the sense that, they are paid per delivery. What Swiggy is not addressing is the inherent risk. You are still not addressing the likelihood of this accident," Roy Chowdhury from JNU told The Quint.

    He added, "There should be some minimum wage, detached from the number of deliveries. Of course, there can be a commission which is an add-on. If they know that their day's income is not dependent on number of deliveries, then they will be less overworked, hurried workers."

    The need for change in policy becomes even more urgent in the face of the growing gig workers economy. According to a study by government think tank NITI Aayog, over 77 lakh workers were engaged in India's gig economy in 2020-21. This workforce is expected to expand to 2.35 crore workers by the end of the decade.

    On being asked about the ambulance service and if it will be helpful for delivery executives, Dr Chowdhury told The Quint, "If the insurance is being covered by Swiggy, then yes it will be helpful. However, what their treatment costs and how much of it is covered by their medical insurance is also important."

    Meanwhile, Shaik Salauddin, president of the Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union (TGPWA), said:

    "I really appreciate their interest to start ambulance services, but the primary focus should be to provide free treatment for its employees. Most employees do not have money for treatment."
    Expand
  3. 3. What Do Delivery Executives Have To Say?

    Speaking about the pay structure and their daily targets, Yogesh, a 24-year-old delivery worker in Noida, told The Quint, "If we make enough deliveries to earn Rs 500, we get an incentive of Rs 200. If we make deliveries to earn Rs 700, we get an incentive of Rs 350. But since we earn Rs 20-40 per delivery, it takes at least 20 orders to get the incentive. If our earnings are even a single rupee less, we don't get the incentive."

    He added, "We have to mostly do 12-hour shifts to complete these orders; sometimes even 14 hours."

    Mohit, 25, another delivery executive in Noida, said, "The biggest problem is that they do not give us enough orders on time since they also have tie ups with third-party delivery partners like Shadowfax and Loadshare. We end up waiting for hours for an order."

    Chandrashekhar, 24-year-old delivery worker, from Uttar Pradesh's Etawah, confirmed the same and added:

    "I have been waiting here for nearly two hours to get an order. But delivery executives from other companies get the orders instantly."

    Speaking about the medical insurance, Mohit said, "The problem is they don’t cover our parents under the insurance. Who will take care of them? What we earn goes to help our parents' medical expenses."

    Employed with Swiggy for 1.5 years, Chandrashekhar said, "If we start getting orders on priority or if the company gets our target done within our eight to 10 hour shift, then things will improve. But sometimes we end up spending nearly 20 hours to reach the incentive target."

    Expand
  4. 4. What Does Swiggy Have To Say?

    Respoding to the allegations of a long waiting time between orders, Swiggy told The Quint, "Swiggy has upskilling and reskilling programs such as Swiggy Skills wherein we focus on specifically on engaging the DE’s during wait time between orders and helps them upskill on the job."

    Swiggy also reiterated that they do not risk the safety of their delivery partners by giving them a time limit.

    The food delivery app told The Quint, "In terms of delivery executives being rushed, we would like to re-iterate that DEs are not penalised for late deliveries and are not incentivised for fast deliveries. Swiggy’s assignment algorithms are agnostics of driver earnings. In fact, statistically, 95 percent of Swiggy’s delivery executives who do a shift of eight to nine hours hit their delivery targets and earn their weekly incentives."

    While most delivery executives The Quint spoke to were unaware of the scheme, they appreciated the move but highlighted structural problems and low wage as the bigger obstacles of their day-to-day functioning.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What's the Scheme?

With Swiggy's new ambulance service, the delivery executives can reach out on a toll-free number or simply tap the SOS button without leaving the partner app, in the case of an emergency before, during, or after a delivery to access the free ambulance service.

This comes on the heels of the death of two Swiggy delivery executives in January: 23-year-old Mohd. Rizwan in Hyderabad and 24-year-old Kaushal Yadav.

  • On 11 January, Rizwan fell from the third floor of a building in Hyderabad after allegedly trying to evade a customer's dog. He succumbed to his injuries three days later.

  • On 14 January, Yadav died after he met with an accident near sector 14 flyover in Noida. The victim’s body was allegedly dragged for 500 metres.

In a statement, the food delivery app said:

"Swiggy has launched this service pan-India after piloting the service in Bangalore, Delhi, NCR, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune, and Kolkata. In the test runs and the cases raised so far, the service's response time has been an average of 12 minutes."

Swiggy has tied up with Dial4242 which can dispatch different Ambulances such as BLS (Basic Life Support) ambulances, Cardiac ambulances, ALS (Advanced Life Support), Inter-state ambulances, COVID-19 ambulances, and Hearse Vans based on the severity of the case.

"The service is free for all active delivery executives and their dependents (spouses and two children), who are covered under the insurance provided by Swiggy. Delivery executives can also choose to avail the ambulance for family members not covered under their insurance at a subsidised cost," Swiggy stated.

The food delivery app also said that the process will require no documentation; delivery executives only need to confirm their partner ID.

It added, "They (delivery executives) receive benefits such as accident insurance and medical cover, personal loans, legal assistance, COVID income support, income support during accident or illness recovery, bereavement leaves, period time off, and maternity cover among others."

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What Do Experts Have To Say?

"The accidents or the rush to deliver something quickly is much more structural, in the sense that, they are paid per delivery. What Swiggy is not addressing is the inherent risk. You are still not addressing the likelihood of this accident," Roy Chowdhury from JNU told The Quint.

He added, "There should be some minimum wage, detached from the number of deliveries. Of course, there can be a commission which is an add-on. If they know that their day's income is not dependent on number of deliveries, then they will be less overworked, hurried workers."

The need for change in policy becomes even more urgent in the face of the growing gig workers economy. According to a study by government think tank NITI Aayog, over 77 lakh workers were engaged in India's gig economy in 2020-21. This workforce is expected to expand to 2.35 crore workers by the end of the decade.

On being asked about the ambulance service and if it will be helpful for delivery executives, Dr Chowdhury told The Quint, "If the insurance is being covered by Swiggy, then yes it will be helpful. However, what their treatment costs and how much of it is covered by their medical insurance is also important."

Meanwhile, Shaik Salauddin, president of the Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union (TGPWA), said:

"I really appreciate their interest to start ambulance services, but the primary focus should be to provide free treatment for its employees. Most employees do not have money for treatment."

What Do Delivery Executives Have To Say?

Speaking about the pay structure and their daily targets, Yogesh, a 24-year-old delivery worker in Noida, told The Quint, "If we make enough deliveries to earn Rs 500, we get an incentive of Rs 200. If we make deliveries to earn Rs 700, we get an incentive of Rs 350. But since we earn Rs 20-40 per delivery, it takes at least 20 orders to get the incentive. If our earnings are even a single rupee less, we don't get the incentive."

He added, "We have to mostly do 12-hour shifts to complete these orders; sometimes even 14 hours."

Mohit, 25, another delivery executive in Noida, said, "The biggest problem is that they do not give us enough orders on time since they also have tie ups with third-party delivery partners like Shadowfax and Loadshare. We end up waiting for hours for an order."

Chandrashekhar, 24-year-old delivery worker, from Uttar Pradesh's Etawah, confirmed the same and added:

"I have been waiting here for nearly two hours to get an order. But delivery executives from other companies get the orders instantly."

Speaking about the medical insurance, Mohit said, "The problem is they don’t cover our parents under the insurance. Who will take care of them? What we earn goes to help our parents' medical expenses."

Employed with Swiggy for 1.5 years, Chandrashekhar said, "If we start getting orders on priority or if the company gets our target done within our eight to 10 hour shift, then things will improve. But sometimes we end up spending nearly 20 hours to reach the incentive target."

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What Does Swiggy Have To Say?

Respoding to the allegations of a long waiting time between orders, Swiggy told The Quint, "Swiggy has upskilling and reskilling programs such as Swiggy Skills wherein we focus on specifically on engaging the DE’s during wait time between orders and helps them upskill on the job."

Swiggy also reiterated that they do not risk the safety of their delivery partners by giving them a time limit.

The food delivery app told The Quint, "In terms of delivery executives being rushed, we would like to re-iterate that DEs are not penalised for late deliveries and are not incentivised for fast deliveries. Swiggy’s assignment algorithms are agnostics of driver earnings. In fact, statistically, 95 percent of Swiggy’s delivery executives who do a shift of eight to nine hours hit their delivery targets and earn their weekly incentives."

While most delivery executives The Quint spoke to were unaware of the scheme, they appreciated the move but highlighted structural problems and low wage as the bigger obstacles of their day-to-day functioning.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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