Decoding the Labour & Precarious Lives: Delivery Workers and Online Shopping in India
One of the prime factors driving shoppers to shop online apart from the huge discounts, is the attribute of convenience entailed in online shopping-in the form of goods getting delivered at the very doorstep of the customer. Essentially then, the entire edifice of e-retail is brought to its realization by the section of workers who work in the courier companies as the ‘delivery workers’--the men (there are hardly any women[i]) who deliver the goods that we order online at our very doorsteps. We see these delivery workers on the roads: riding motorbike with extremely heavy backpacks irrespective of the extreme weather conditions –extreme heat or extreme cold or rain, racing against time and traffic so as to ensure timely and as fast as possible delivery of our online ordered goods. It is therefore important to decode the form of labour that characterizes the delivery of our online ordered goods, from the point of picking up the parcels from the office of the courier company for which the delivery workers work to the customer’s doorstep. What follows then is an account of the form of labour entailed in the delivery of online ordered goods. This account is based on the in-depth interviews conducted with thirty such delivery workers who are located in New Delhi, India.
Before moving on to the findings from the said survey, the following set up of the e-retail companies for ensuring timely doorstep delivery to their customers must be taken note of. The e-retail companies such as Flipkart and Amazon India etc have tied up with external courier companies such as Aramax, Delhivery, BlueDart, FedEx etc to ensure the timely delivery of the goods ordered from their respective platforms/ e-portals. Some of these e-retail companies such as Amazon India and Flipkart have also set up their in-house courier service in addition to partnering with the outside courier companies.[ii] Doin