Soaring fuel costs burn up earnings of cab drivers, delivery agents

Forum Gandhi Mumbai | Updated on May 12, 2021

The price of petrol and diesel have been witnessing a steady rise since February   -  The Hindu

Most struggle to pay EMIs, some have given up and left for their home towns, say industry insiders

Vidhya, a Mumbai-based cab driver associated with Ola and Uber spends 16-17 hours a day at the wheel, yet she has to dip into her savings to manage expenses. While the EMI for the car and commissions to aggregators were weighing on her income, the increasing fuel costs have further dented her earnings.

The price of petrol and diesel have increased steadily since February. Petrol costs ₹97.57 per litre and diesel ₹88.60. On Monday, in a price notification, State-owned fuel retailers said that petrol prices were hiked by 26 paise and diesel by 33 paise. This was a record high across the country after rates were increased for the fifth time in a week, following which Maharashtra joined Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh where petrol rates breached the ₹100 mark.

According to Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers (IFAT) National General Secretary, Shaik Salauddin, “The fares that cab drivers are getting is the same as they pay for the petrol prices. Many of them are unable to pay EMIs and have gone back to villages. As petrol and diesel prices get into the roaring ₹90s space, gig workers, including cab drivers, auto drivers and food delivery executives, are feeling the pinch.”

Vidhya said that she used to earn approximately ₹60,000 to ₹70,000 a month. However, over the past one year, that has dropped to half’as the number of rides have reduced, and commissions have increased. Bhaskar Patil, who is a delivery boy with ShadowFax, has a similar story. “At least 30 per cent of my cost used to be towards petrol earlier. Now, I am paying close to 45 per cent,” he said. Arvind Kishan, a delivery boy with Swiggy and Zomato who delivers for at least 12 hours a day said that he has to save at least 70-80 per cent toward the commissions and the petrol prices. If that was not enough, the distance of deliveries have increased and the ticket value has reduced. “The number of deliveries have reduced, too. We have tried to reach out to our local recruiter several times but they blatantly ignore our messages,” he said.

Average earnings

On an average, delivery workers are being paid ₹6/km, while the cost including fuel and maintenance comes to around ₹2.5-3/km.

So after travelling, say about 100 km a day in more than 12 hours, they are earning about ₹600-700 – from which they have to keep aside ₹200 for petrol. Earlier, they were compensated for long distance order by extra per/km charges but not any longer.

Despite Covid-19, in the last 30 days, just like same time last year, Apna, a professional networking platform, said that it had seen a 2x rise in the demand for blue collar and grey collar candidates in the logistics, e-commerce health and insurance segments. “The demand for delivery boys in the e-commerce segment, whereas we have noticed a requirement for ward boys, volunteers etc., in the health sector. In the insurance sector, we have seen a rise in the requirement for remote telly-callers.” Manas Singh, Head of Business & Growth at Apna, said.

While the demand has increased, the commissions charged per ride for cab drivers has increased, and the incentive earned by delivery boys has reduced. “The business of commission, wait time pay, batched orders, and incentives is a maze of words and digits for most gig workers. So, while a delivery worker might see ₹291 as an earning per order once the distance of 27.49 km and 57 minutes delivery time is factored in along with the fuel cost, the earnings don’t look so lucrative,” Salauddin added.

However, the fear of delivering during Covid-19 seems to be a major concern for those people who BusinessLine spoke to. Bhaskar said that despite nearing 50, he is continuing to work because his two sons are unable to find a job of their liking.

Whereas Vidhya said that she has driven covid- patients too. “I am scared that I may contract the virus, however, if I was to think of that, I won’t be able to work at all,” she added.

The Employment Outlook Report April-June, 2021 report by TeamLease stated the “intent to hire” for different segments and types of candidates. It added that there was a 41 per cent intent to hire in the past two quarters for blue collar candidates. However, it added that the “demand for the evergreen blue collar function is likely to have plateaued.” On the issue of slimming margins for commission-based candidates, Apna’s Singh said that Apna plans to give the candidate pulse feedback to its client.

(*Surnames removed or changed on request by the people quoted.)

Published on May 12, 2021

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