Companies like Advaita Bodhi Foundation and Even Cargo, which train female delivery workers, say industry still has reservations in on-boarding female delivery workers, even though multiple e-commerce and food delivery companies have committed to increase workforce diversity.   

“Every time we enter a new city or a geography, the conversation always starts with, ‘will women be able to deliver?’ There has not been much difference in the response we get in Tier-2, 3 cities as compared to Tier-1 or metro cities. In some cases, we have in fact found Tier-2 cities to be more progressive in accepting women delivery workers,” said Yogesh Kumar, CEO of Even Cargo, which provides women with skill training in driving, communications, logistics, road safety and self-defence. 

Even Cargo currently has around 200 women delivery workers, but has trained over 700 women in the past six years. The firm has inducted women as e-commerce delivery executives in Delhi, Delhi-NCR, Udaipur, Jaipur, Ajmer and Nagpur. 

Agreeing with Kumar, Suchayan Mandal, Founder of Advaita Bodhi Foundation, said, “We wanted to help some of our trained students get delivery executive job with platform companies. In the case of one such company, only male applicants got the call for these jobs, and none of the women got the interview call. Even though these women were eligible in all ways - mostly graduates, trained by us in basic English, had the knowledge of digital payments, internet banking, smartphone literacy, some even had two-wheelers, etc.” 

Mandal added that he has seen instances of vendors (third-party vendors hiring for e-commerce companies) refusing to hire women delivery workers and saying that they can only hire men. Advaita Bodhi Foundation works with close to 5,000 young people trained on industry-related soft skills in West Bengal. 

Data helps make a strong case

Even though the challenge has remained the same over the six years of Even Cargo’s operations, Kumar said the company has learnt to deal with the challenges. Even Cargo has been using data to make its case for female delivery workers. 

“In our internal research, we have seen that places where our women delivery associates are placed, the losses due to accidental damage and theft comes down by 18 per cent. So there is a clear case of business for the customers whom we are catering. Every week, we do performance assessment of our delivery associates and more often than not, you will find them outperforming majority of their counterparts,” he added. 

These comments come in the background of both e-commerce and food delivery companies’ ongoing efforts to increase diversity in their delivery workforce. In Nov 2021, Amazon India launched an all-women delivery station in Andhra Pradesh, in addition to its existing all-women delivery stations in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Gujarat. 

Similarly, Walmart-owned Flipkart runs Project Vividhta to ensure active participation of women in its supply chain. Last year, Swiggy announced plans to make working conditions accessible for women by offering paid time-off during periods and access to restrooms, among other things. 

In a report titled “India’s booming Platform and Gig economy”, the Indian government think-tank Niti Aayog has estimated gig economy workers to grow from 77 lakh in 2020-21 to 2.35 crore in 2029-30.