Outside a Blinkit warehouse in south Delhi’s Masoodpur, popularly referred to as a ‘dark store’, a dozen Blinkit delivery executives get notifications regarding new orders.
Each order brings with it a sense of dismay. “We will only make Rs 15 on this order instead of Rs 25...,” said one Blinkit executive.
On 12 April, these workers sat on a protest in Masoodpur demanding an increase in the amount received per order. On 18 April, however, they returned to work.
A worker told The Quint on Tuesday, "We are just fighting for our right but at the same time, we have households to run." He said they have started taking orders since Monday 'majboori se’ (out of compulsion).
Hundreds of workers across Delhi, Gurugram and Noida have been protesting outside their respective dark stores. Their main reason for protesting is that the minimum fee per order has been reduced to Rs 15 from Rs 25 in the last few days. This has an impact on their daily earnings.
On a hot April afternoon, The Quint met around eight workers outside the Blinkit 'dark store' about depleting wages, their need to protest, and pending EMIs.
What Has Blinkit Changed?
In December 2021, Grofers rebranded to Blinkit. The workers were earlier paid a monthly salary, which changed to a ‘per order’ payment of Rs 50, then Rs 25 and last week, it came down to Rs 15.
A worker, on condition of anonymity, told The Quint, “If I used to work eight hours to earn Rs 1,000 a day, it will now take me 14-15 hours to make that much money.” The worker pointed at his trip history, where most of his orders had fetched him Rs 15, and only a few had gone up to Rs 25 and Rs 31.
A Blinkit spokesperson told The Quint, "All of our stores are back in operations now. Over 70 percent of our delivery partners have also opted-in to the new payout structure, without any loss in earnings and continue to deliver on the platform. We are experiencing higher demand than supply at the current moment and some customers will see higher than expected times for the next few days.”
From Monthly Salary to ‘Per Order’ Payment
A worker, originally from West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district, narrated how he had joined the company when it was still Grofers. “Back then, I was hired at a monthly salary of Rs 18,000, and then the ‘per order’ payment began. At first, we used to get paid Rs 50 per order. Then it was reduced to Rs 25 and now it has come down to Rs 15,” said the 27-year-old.
The worker added, “Every time the name of the company has changed, the pay structure has changed too and our earnings have become less.”
Under the new structure, the riders will be paid a per km fee that depends on when the delivery is being made. But here's the catch. Since many dark stores operate within a two km radius, the workers are seeing a drop in their daily income.
On Tuesday, 18 April, workers came in and out of the parking lot of the dark store every few minutes. Most were disheartened when they got another delivery that promised them only Rs 15. One of the workers received an order of five kg aata (wheat flour) but would be paid the same because it was within a one km radius. Regardless of the weight and the low earnings, they accept the order and head out on their bikes to deliver it.
Another worker outside the store, said;
The protests had started earlier in other areas and we had only heard about it. Some of the workers came and protested outside our dark store too. The next day, we realised that our earnings have gone down to Rs 15 too and hence, we started protesting.A Blinkit Delivery Partner
A number of WhatsApp groups have sprung up with workers coming together to protest, they said.
Most of the workers in the area had migrated from Siliguri and Cooch Behar in West Bengal a few years ago in order to find a livelihood in the city.
Another worker, aged 28, has been in Delhi for the past eight years. He said, “I protested for five days because I have been making only Rs 500-Rs 600 a day, which is almost half of what I used to make earlier. I have a family of three to feed, and Eid is coming up too. I need some savings in order to celebrate.”
‘Struggling to Pay Bike EMI and Rent’
With lower earnings, the workers say they have stumbled upon another challenge – paying the rent and EMI of their bikes. Some take Zypp bikes on rent while others pay monthly EMI on their bikes.
One of the workers, aged 29, bought his Hero Splendor bike for Rs 1,11,000 six months ago. He has paid around Rs 30,000 so far. He said, “I do not know if the investment was worth it because when I took up the job, we would get Rs 50 per order and I was still earning Rs 700-Rs 800 a day.” He was earlier working with a courier company in Masoodpur but shifted to Blinkit after his company shifted to Gurgaon.
I was earning a monthly salary of Rs 15,000 at the courier company. The company provided me with a bike. Even though we earn more now, we have to pay for our bike in installments and around Rs 200 a day for fuel which is not reimbursed.A Blinkit Delivery Partner
Another worker said he pays a weekly ‘kiraya' (rent) of Rs 1,200 for his Zypp electric bike. The rent and fuel costs have to be borne by the workers, they said.
The only pit stop for the workers is the store, where they stop to drink water on a sweltering summer day. The only interaction that the workers have with the company is through their store managers. A worker said, “Our store manager told us that there is no use protesting. He told us that regardless of how much we protest, there will be no change in policy.”
A staff member at the store, who did not want to be named, told The Quint, “Our warehouse is functioning normally now. We have been told by our supervisors that the earnings will not decrease and workers will be compensated for their hardwork.”