As Jobs Vanish, Salaried Workers Become Gig Economy 'Partners' With Swiggy, Zomato And Amazon

Sowmiya Ashok
Swiggy and Zomato delivery partners rest near closed restaurants in DLF Phase III, Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi on 05 April 2020. 

Chennai, TAMIL NADU— Two months ago S polished marble floors in Chennai’s five-star hotels for a monthly wage of Rs 15,000. Now he has a temperature gun pointed at his forehead each time he arrives at a restaurant to pick up an order in the city.

S, a delivery partner for Swiggy, had been on the job for 96 hours at the time of this interview and his body temperature averaged 97F. On a Friday afternoon last week, his temperature was checked once again when he picked up a slice of a bestselling New York cheesecake from a popular Chennai bakery.

“My work dried up when the hotels shut down,” he said over the phone, describing his previous employment as a floor polisher. “I saw an ad for a Swiggy job on YouTube. There was a number listed to get in touch with a manager.” 

S was looking for a way to feed his wife and 2-year-old daughter after 60 days of no income; he was still ostensibly employed at the floor cleaning company but hadn’t been paid for 2 months. He already owned a motorcycle, so he was pretty much ready to hit Chennai’s empty roads.

His initiation was swift: S was sent a link on WhatsApp instructing him to download the Swiggy app, an instructional video laid out the do’s & don’ts to protect himself from Covid-19, and a final section explained how to interact with customers. 

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