Disregard for rules puts Swiggy and Zomato delivery boys under police lens
Mumbai and Bengaluru police have fined many food delivery agents who put incentives ahead of rules.
These two cities are among the top three markets for food ordering apps in the country and law enforcement authorities in both states have fined hundreds of food delivery agents over the past few months.
Bengaluru’s traffic police officials recently met with representatives of Swiggy, Zomato and other food ordering apps and raised concerns over the way the companies had structured payments to delivery agents. Earlier in the year, Mumbai police, too, had met with the delivery companies, airing similar concerns.
“We have asked them (food delivery firms) to relook at their payment and incentives structures so that the delivery executives do not break traffic rules,” said Ravikanthe Gowda, joint commissioner of police, traffic, Bengaluru City. “The food delivery companies are promising to deliver food in 20 minutes. Such a target should not be introduced.”
The food ordering apps have employed thousands of delivery agents in Bengaluru and Mumbai for a while now, but police say the rise in traffic offences coincides with reduced incentives paid to agents. “The target these companies set should be reasonable, which ensures safety of delivery executives and people in general,” Gowda said.
Swiggy and Zomato, however, denied that they gave incentives based on speed of delivery, adding that agents were also not penalised for late deliveries.
“Our incentive structure is designed to make sure our delivery partners are well appreciated for their efforts and we are able to create long-term benefits and sustainable opportunities for them,” Zomato said in a statement.
Swiggy said it uses algorithms to calculate the estimated time of arrival for food ordered by a consumer after taking into account dish preparation time, a restaurant’s efficiency, the average speed of delivery, time of day and changing traffic conditions. “Swiggy uses superior technology that matches the right delivery executives and reduces delivery time,” the company said.
Food delivery agents in Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai told ET that they felt pressurised to complete trips sooner to hit their daily targets, not due to a fear of being penalised. They also admitted that they had sometimes violated traffic norms such as jumping lights, riding in the wrong direction on a one-way street and on footpaths.
A delivery agent with Zomato in Bengaluru, who didn’t want to be named, said he would be entitled to a payment of ₹850 for completing 23 trips a day. However, achieving that target was not easy, he said, especially if he wanted to do that in the 12-14 hours he spent working for Zomato each day.
“On an average, each kilometre of road will have two-three traffic signals. While delivering one order, we can be stuck in at least 10 to 15 signals. Sometimes, it is frustrating to wait at each and every one of them, so I break the rule,” he said.
A senior ministry of road transport and highways official told ET that neither Karnataka or Maharashtra had formally sought the Centre’s help on the issue, but “we know the problem (of delivery agents breaking rules) exists, and at its core is a labour issue for which laws have not evolved yet.”
The working conditions of food delivery agents and all other socalled gig economy workers are being questioned.