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Delivery start-ups recruiting on-demand labour services.

Delivery start-ups recruiting on-demand labour services.


Delivery start-ups recruiting on-demand labour services.

Arvind Kumar is a commerce undergrad who attends classes by day and turns into an errand boy for a mobile application driven meal delivery startup after sundown.

“I have to work, else I can’t manage my college fees,” said Kumar, a 22-year-old Bengaluru native, one of thousands who have joined the on demand labour force that is central to the on-ground functioning of tech startups that use mobile apps for their delivery ventures, similar to the cab aggregation service.

As India’s emerging home delivery industry encounters competition in courier services, meal aggregation and Internet-first restaurants, the market has become strained for talent. Startups such as Swiggy and B2B delivery company Roadrunnr are turning to a flexi-time system to satisfy fluctuating demand by hiring on demand labour.

“Delivery demand goes through a ‘lean and peak’ cycle depending on the category. Somebody who can understand that can make lot of smart money,” said Mohit Kumar, co-founder of B2B delivery startup Roadrunnr, which has 300 part-time delivery boys on its platform. “Delivery boys can figure out the hours they can work for to make maximum money, and only work then by switching on the application.”

For instance, Bangalore-based Saquib delivers at the doorstep for a major online meal aggregator. He also undertakes an extra four hours to make extra cash through another mobile app platform. “I used to be a sales representative, but having run into some personal financial problems, so I have to work overtime,” said the 25-year-old, who makes Rs 23,000 a month.

Investors are happy with the labour pool India provides for such models. About 65% of India’s population is under 35 years of age, and most come from an educated but underprivileged stratum. “These are educated workers, even college students, or drivers between shifts, or underutilised people between jobs.

“These workers make a decent amount of money by just logging in for a few hours,” said Sameer Brij Verma, principal at Nexus Venture Partners. “The delivery boy pool is expanding as a result because people are working in shifts. It is very difficult to manage unless you have a strong platform that manages boys, inventory and driving.”

A few taxi aggregators, such as Uber which offers Rs 300 extra per trip, have lured techies and government workers to log on to the mobile app and drive a taxi after their college classes or work shifts are over.

The money has also lured housewives — about 15 of whom have signed up with Uber in Delhi — to drive cabs when they complete household chores.

The on-demand worker model is all the rage in Silicon Valley, where every other startup relies on ground labour to fulfill their services.

According to a study recently published by Stanford University, a typical on-demand worker in the US is an 18-to-24-years-old single male with some college education and an iPhone. As per the survey, delivery workers — constituting 12% of the 1,000-strong sample — are much more likely to have been unemployed prior to taking up the arrangement. Only 20% of those surveyed had a full-time job while delivering on the side.

This article was originally published in The Times Of India.

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