As more and more people are staying at home and quarantining themselves, the door-to-door delivery startups are all facing both new opportunities and challenges. With the general scare over stuff being delivered to your doorstep also becoming carriers of the coronavirus, food delivery apps like Swiggy and Zomato have started training their restaurant and delivery partners on how to package and handle food, wash and sanitise hands, use masks and identify symptoms. But then those who do the last-mile servicing are not finding it easy to incorporate the masks and hand sanitisers into their daily routine.
“I am looked at suspiciously when I deliver food these days, especially if I am not wearing a mask,” says Rajneesh, a delivery valet working with a food delivery service. He says his company hasn’t instructed their employees to take any particular measures nor have they received any mask to put on. But Rajneesh has encountered cases where some customers have told him to keep the food outside and leave. “If they are so scared, why even order” he frustratingly questions.
Nikhil, a 22-year-old who delivers grocery items, had covered his face with a cotton handkerchief and wore plastic surgeon gloves. “People feel safe dealing with me if I wear the mask and gloves and it is better for my own safety,” he said. “A lot of houses have started keeping sanitisers at their main entrance and you have to apply it before delivering their product” he explained, adding how his daily workload has doubled since the pandemic started impacting India. “Now that people have started panicking and not going out they are ordering in bulk. We are getting so many orders, some of the stocks are for up to six months,” he said.
While Nikhil’s work has increased, another delivery boy who delivers for a meat shop is seeing “no order” days now. He blames the rumours related to poultry rumours for the rapid decrease in demand. “I receive several messages on WhatsApp about how chicken consumption can make you more vulnerable to coronavirus,” he said, adding: “Even my family tells me not to touch chicken and other non-veg products.” India’s poultry industry is looking at a 41 billion loss because of this drop in business.
But there is also the fear of ending up on the receiving end — of catching the virus, or worse, becoming a “spreader”. “I come in contact with so many people and products daily,” reasoned Sakeb, another delivery valet.
Meanwhile, the food delivery apps are going the extra mile to preserve their business. We noticed that food ordered from both Zomato and Swiggy were properly packaged with a double-layer of packaging which wasn’t the case before.
However, the Swiggy delivery person who delivered our order was not wearing a mask, as he claimed to have “breathing problems and couldn’t wear a mask at all times”. However, the delivery partner said he has masks from Swiggy as well as hand sanitiser bottle which he has been told to use before each delivery. In contrast, the Zomato delivery person had his mask on and showed us the sanitiser given to him. He said all delivery guys have been given masks and sanitisers and told to use them at all times.
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A restaurant partner with Swiggy in Noida told indianexpress.com that the company has told them to clean up the kitchen now and then. Also, he said, the company has asked to pack all orders in a bag so that the food container does not come into direct contact with anyone during transit. A KFC India spokesperson said their delivery was always done in secure tamper-proof packaging. “For added safety and convenience, we are placing this a takeaway bag. There is no extra charge for contactless delivery.”
Interestingly, for KFC food orders have gone up drastically, maybe because people are not stepping out. “With most people staying indoors or operating from home, we see consumers increasingly reaching out to us through alternate channels, including takeaway and delivery – as per their convenience,” the spokesperson highlighted.
KFC India has also started taking daily temperature readings of all team members and riders, including those from aggregators. “As part of our Standard Operating Process, we have always had a mandatory hand washes and sanitisation process, every 30 minutes. We are adding to our already existing stringent hygiene process by making sure delivery bags are sanitised for every order. KFC delivery riders are also wearing masks and hand gloves,” the spokesperson added.
As part of the contactless delivery initiative, the riders are instructed to place the delivery bag at the doorstep of the customer and wait at a distance for the customer to collect the order. “The initial feedback of the customers has been encouraging,” KFC India said. Domino’s Pizza, Swiggy and Zomato too offer contactless delivery and customers have the option of choosing this before hand. However, Swiggy, Zomato, and Dunzo did not come on record for this story.
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