New-age internet companies are seeing more women in frontline roles and it’s easy to see why — lower attrition rates, better ratings for delivery women and improved productivity at warehouses. That’s led to greater demand for women at delivery hubs and fulfillment centres.
The trend is reflected in the latest Employment Outlook report by staffing platform TeamLease Services that has been shared exclusively with ET, which said the total number of women employed in the delivery industry across various roles now stands at 67,900, up from 40,000 last year.
Overall, the gig economy accounts for more than 1.4 million jobs in India, which mostly includes delivery staff, drivers, beauticians and maintenance workers, according to BetterPlace, a platform for blue-collar workers. The gig economy, led by the likes of Uber, Ola, Swiggy and Zomato, typically offers short-term contracts or freelance work to its drivers and delivery personnel.
While more women are joining the gig economy in such roles, they are paid less than men for the same jobs. There’s an 8-10% salary difference between male and female delivery executives ranging between Rs 15,000 and Rs 30,000 per month, according to TeamLease. As much as 60% of the jobs are in food tech, 30% in ecommerce and courier services and 10% in hyperlocal delivery, it said.
Women are more diligent, with customers complaining less, said one startup boss. “We see far (fewer) complaints for our women delivery executives, something which is more common with men when instances like missing items are reported,” said Revathi Roy, founder of Hey Deedee, an all-women delivery service startup.
Safety a Key Concern
Hey Deedee has a delivery force of 800 women. Another 2,500 women are attending a 45-day training camp at which they’ll be taught self-defence, road safety and other skills, the company said. Besides ecommerce companies, the Mumbai-based startup also works with retailers such as Pizza Hut and Nature’s Basket.
But even as the number of women entering the gig economy is rising, challenges remain when hiring them for frontline roles, especially with regard to their safety as reflected in Hey Deedee’s training regimen. That’s why it’s not alone in providing self-defence training, aimed at equipping women with the ability to tackle untoward situations. Apart from that, companies said many women lack two-wheeler riding skills, an essential for last-mile delivery roles.
With 1,200 women employees in its last-mile network, Amazon provides third-party safety apps and a dedicated helpline among other initiatives, to ensure women’s safety. “In the last-mile network, there are several jobs available for women like operational and managerial roles in delivery stations, delivery associates and IHS (I Have Space) partners, among others,” said an Amazon spokesperson. IHS is a last-mile connectivity programme in association with small store owners.
Amazon added 800 women last year, up from 20 three years ago. “We have a dedicated delivery station in Chennai, which is run solely by women. Here, they deliver packages on two-wheelers, covering a radius of 2-3 km from the station,” a spokesperson said. Other women-only delivery stations have expanded into mixed centres.
Walmart-owned Flipkart said it first hired a set of women in delivery roles in 2017 when the online retailer introduced grocery as a category, which saw better acceptability by customers. It later expanded in other categories in the supply chain such as furniture and large appliances. With 300 women in roles such as supervising operations, sorting centres, packaging and in charge of hubs and delivery executives, the firm plans to provide education and sensitisation modules apart from facilities such as wash rooms and creches. The company said it aims to take women staffing to 20% across the supply chain.
Besides ecommerce, food-delivery apps such as Swiggy said it now has 700 women as delivery partners while rival Zomato employs 500. These companies said they see more women participate in cities such as Kochi, Jaipur, Pune and other non-metro areas, most of them on company rolls.
“Our first woman delivery partner joined us in Pune in January last year and the number is steadily growing,” said a Zomato spokesperson. “Flexible work timings help female delivery partners to familiarise themselves with routes and restaurants and we ensure regular interactions with delivery staff and track them through the partner app.”
The number of women has significantly increased in sectors such as supply chain, retail, travel, banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI), where they are working in customer service, sales and other frontline roles, according to TeamLease.
But these figures are still relatively low, said Rituparna Chakraborty, cofounder of TeamLease Services.
“The percentage of Indian women in the workforce is still around 26-27% — one of the lowest in the world,” Chakraborty said. “We have to remain focussed around policy initiatives and corporate India has to take a long-term view on attracting and retaining women in the workforce.”