Rana, 32, was one of the millions of Indians who joined the gig economy during the early days of the pandemic. He worked with all the major delivery companies in India’s tech hub Bengaluru over the last two years, making anywhere between Rs 15,000-25,000 ($190-320) per month, excluding fuel costs.

Earlier this year, Rana quit the gig economy for a stable, permanent job as a security guard, which paid him Rs 22,000 ($280) per month for a 10-hour shift, six days a week. Rising fuel prices and overall inflation meant that delivery work was no longer tenable to support his family. 

However, last month, Rana started doing deliveries again to supplement his income after receiving many notifications from delivery companies about attractive payouts. He currently makes upwards of Rs 5,000 ($65) a week working for four to six hours a day with foodtech major Zomato. He says he will look for more comfortable jobs when the delivery payouts decrease again. 

Such is the volatility in India’s US$1 billion gig economy US$1 billion gig economy Forbes India Autonomy of gig work: Myth or reality? Read more  right now that delivery companies are facing a huge conundrum. And it’s largely of their own doing.

Over the last few months, everyone and their brother scaled their delivery services, buoyed by an industry that was growing at 14% annually. Swiggy, which has delivery and concierge services, is now piloting an e-commerce platform, dubbed dubbed Business Insider Swiggy to foray into e-commerce with the launch of Minis — a marketplace for local stores Read more  Minis. Quick-commerce platform Zepto has announced a ready-to-eat, instant food-delivery service called Zepto Cafe. It’s also considering entering the online pharmacy delivery business. 

Ride-hailing company Ola is integrating its food- and grocery-delivery businesses. And Zomato is trying out a 10-minute food-delivery service, Zomato Instant. 

However, before launching these services, none of the companies seem to have checked on the backbone of the industry—delivery personnel. India has about 15 million gig workers, most of which are contracted with the hyperlocal delivery industry. Zomato, for instance, had a fleet strength of 316,000 as of the quarter ended March 2022.

That figure is likely to have dropped as things stand today. A Zomato executive told The Ken that the company has been working with 25-35% fewer delivery personnel than usual. They and other sources The Ken spoke to requested anonymity as they aren’t authorised to speak with the media. 

AUTHOR

Aayush Agarwal

Aayush covers businesses that are primarily Internet for The Ken. In his previous stint at Goldman Sachs, he spent slightly more than a year analysing investment opportunities in the China Internet space. A science graduate, he completed his postgraduate from the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode. Write to him if, among other things, you wish to talk about e-businesses, journalism or just offbeat career choices.

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