“My job helped me to get a bank loan on easy terms to buy my own scooter. I now earn Rs 15,000 a month; my work hours are between 7am and 2pm,” says Tabassum. Her father, a cook at a restaurant, makes Rs 9,000 a month. Her income has come as a huge relief for the family. At Even Cargo, Tabassum received training in driving, self-defence (Honda and Delhi Police, partners of Even Cargo, conducted the training), as well as customer interaction and communications.
In view of safety concerns, the Even Cargo management sends Tabassum and their other employees mostly to women customers and to deliver women-centric products such as apparel, household goods and lingerie. “My deliveries are mostly to housewives. They’re surprised to see a delivery girl instead of a man, and encourage me. Some even want to click selfies,” says Tabassum.
Even Cargo is among a trickle of initiatives in various Indian cities that are training women to work in the logistics sector, as an ecommerce boom is driving up demand and wages for delivery boys.
Most people who order products online are pleasantly surprised to see delivery girls. While the number of women in courier delivery jobs still remains small, things are changing and in the metros now it’s increasingly becoming likely that a woman customer will be serviced by a delivery girl.
While definitive estimates are unavailable, a back-of-the-envelope calculation says at least 800 women are employed in last-mile delivery at logistics service providers, ecommerce companies, food delivery players and Yakult, the Japanese probiotic dairy product company that have a network of women delivery personnel.
Besides the metros, Pune, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Kochi, Jamshedpur, Coimbatore, Tirupati, Dehra Dun, Imphal, Satara, Nagpur, Bhopal and Thiruvananthapuram are some of the other tier-1 and tier-2 cities where online shoppers can expect to open their doors to delivery girls.
It helps that in these cities it’s common for women to ride bikes compared with larger cities with more reliable and widespread public transport networks.
A May 2018 study by HR services firm TeamLease said 60,000 jobs will be created in the courier services sector between 2018 and 2022.
Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder and executive VP of TeamLease, feels that the demand for gender diversity is largely driven by organisations that are progressive in their hiring. “There is also a steady increase in the number of women defying gender stereotypes and getting into this profession,” she adds. They overcome challenges such as safety, duty hours at night, working with heavy packages and riding two-wheelers all day.
Yogesh Kumar, a Tata Institute of Social Sciences alumni, in fact, set up Even Cargo in 2016 as a social enterprise not only to help empower women from marginalised sections of society but also to train them to get jobs in this male-dominated sector. Though currently Even Cargo employs only 25 women across its six centres in different parts of Delhi, Kumar is hopeful of scaling up the numbers very quickly over the coming months.
“We work with some ecommerce companies such as Clovia and Aramex and are talking to them about our expansion plans to other cities. Even though the number of women employed so far is minuscule, the opportunities in the ecommerce logistics space are growing exponentially and we feel that women, too, need the access to these jobs,” he adds. To begin with, it was tough convincing the young women and their parents about delivery jobs.
Courier services jobs in 2017
But Even Cargo follows a policy of allocating safe routes in residential areas, women-centric products and deliveries during the day. “We are setting up shop in Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Bhopal and feel that we will be able to employ many more women in these cities because they are perceived to be safer than Delhi and many already ride bikes,” says Kumar. An important insight that he has gained over the last few months is that the benefits of employing women for last-mile deliveries are not lost on the ecommerce majors. These include more efficiency and customer satisfaction, especially among women, zero thefts and lower damages. His optimistic target: put 2,000 women on the bike for deliveries by the end of 2019.
The job at Even Cargo has certainly been transformational for Shakuntala Kumari, 33, a single mother of two teenagers never go back to doing small-time assignments as a beautician. Like Tabassum, she too has been delivering courier packets for a month now. “My area of delivery is in Malviya Nagar, within 5 km of my home. I leave home at 8 am and am usually home by 1 pm. I can rush back earlier if my mother or children face any problems,” she says. For the first few days, she faced some problems carrying the backpack when she rode, but now has got used to it.
Challenges in Sourcing Talent
Factors ranked by respondents of a survey conducted in April 2018
1. Perception that logistics is a sector requiring low skills
2. Lack of formally educated and trained talent
3. Outmoded, manual tasks that discourage knowledge workers
4. Distribution of operations in remote locations
5. Fear of skill redundancy and costs of reskilling
Mumbai-based social entrepreneur and CEO of HeyDeedee, Revathi Roy, has also taken up the challenge of skilling and employing thousands of women across India in the next 3 years. HeyDeedee is a for-profit logistics company that is working towards providing employment for women in the two-wheeler rider platform to support the burgeoning ecommerce businesses. “Ours is an all-women logistics and Nagpur. There are 1,000 more who are being trained and we see huge employment opportunities for women in last mile logistics,” Roy told ET Magazine. HeyDeedee customers include Nature’s Basket, Pizza Hut and Flipkart and the company plans to expand to Kolkata in September and some cities in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar by December 2018. “The women are all on our payroll and earn at least Rs 20,000 a month plus incentives based on actual deliveries,” Roy says.
Riya Parshuram, who two years back was a home-maker in Worli, Mumbai, was trained in driving and then employed by HeyDeedee.
Now she delivers 50 packets a day and on some days clocks over 30 km. “I am the proud owner of my own Vespa scooty and am earning up to Rs 17,000 a month,” she says. There are challenges of sending her daughters aged 5 & 8 to school on time and not being around when they return. “I’m up very early finishing my household work; my mother-in-law and husband also support me,” says Parshuram, who is now comfortable about wearing her uniform—black T-shirt with the company logo, and jeans.
Another HeyDeedee rider Shraddha Jadhav, 21, likes to push herself to go beyond targets and last month became the top rider from her centre, which also employs 20 men. “After I graduated, I did some office jobs but this is what I find the most exciting. For me, riding a two-wheeler is not a challenge since I’ve been doing it since my college days,” she says. Recently married, she finds support from her husband and parents-in-law.
With logistics tipped to generate thousands of new jobs in India over the next five years, ecommerce companies such as Amazon India are eyeing the huge largely untapped pool of women. Way back in 2015, Amazon Transportation signed up the first woman logistics service partner in Puducherry. “Given the low volume then, she also doubled up as a delivery associate which gave us insight that women delivery associates could also be successful in logistics which is otherwise considered a male-dominated field,” says Akhil Saxena, vice president, customer fulfilment, Amazon India. In 2016, the company announced the launch of a first-of its-kind women-only delivery station in Thiruvananthapuram. Now there are others across the country in Chandigarh, Kochi, Jamshedpur, Kolkata, Coimbatore, Tirupati, Imphal and Satara. These are managed and run by women and employ women delivery associates.
Jamuna Rani, mother of two, started the women-only Amazon delivery station in Chennai in March 2016. She now employs 10 women delivery associates who deliver in and around Ramapuram area. “At present, there are four women doing deliveries on bikes in my team. They have flexible working hours,” says Jamuna.
As a company policy, Amazon Transporation, selects the location of women delivery stations carefully, with priority to the safety of women associates. Most deliveries are done in commercial buildings or tech parks and in dense residential areas.
But it’s not always women looking for full-fledged employment options who take up delivery jobs. Nirali Parikh & Dhruvita Patel are good friends and classmates at the masters in computer applications course of Ganpat University, Ahmedabad, who took it up to earn some quick pocket money. Parikh signed up with Uber Eats in June and Patel was motivated by her to do the same a month back. “On weekdays, we work 4-5 hours, before and after college, doing 10-12 deliveries, which gets us around Rs 600. But on weekends and holidays we are able to do much more,” says Parikh, whose father, an Uber driver-partner, has supported her in signing up with Uber Eats. Both the girls have been commuting on scooters for many years and are comfortable doing deliveries. “In case of any navigational problems, we often get help from other Uber drivers and riders,” says Patel. An Uber spokesperson points out that in many cases, driver partners have encouraged women members of their family to become delivery partners with Uber Eats. “We are currently in 24 cities, as we expand, we see an increasing trend of women expressing interest in becoming delivery partners,” he said.
Ecommerce logistics is the next big thing in jobs in India. And going by early trends, it looks like women, too, are upping their game and looking for a piece of the action.
5 Comments on this Story
Srila Ramanujam882 days ago
MAY BE NOT SO LONG BEFORE DID GENDER PLAY SUCH AN SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN THE CHANGING DYNAMICS OF THE ECONOMIC SECTOR....BUT IT COULD SERVE VERY WELL IF THE DOMINANT GENDER SEES THIS HUGE NEW WORK FORCE AND KNOWS TO BEST INCLUDE THEM IN THEIR JOB PLACES AS EQUAL IF NOT MORE TALENTED!
Ramesh Shah885 days ago
IF HIGHLY EDUCATED GIRLS ACCEPT THE JOBS OF DELIVERY WHERE WOULD UNEDUCATED PEOPLE GO. SO CONFIDENT THEY SHOULD ACT AS *DABBAWALAS* IN MUMBAI. JUST SHOW BUSINESS.
Chandanwood885 days ago
Adopt ONE child policy !!!! Will do good for families and the world in general ../\..