Delivery Apps, Ride Hailing Firms Call For Caution Amid Coronavirus Scare

Entrepreneur India takes a look at how companies like Swiggy, BigBasket and Uber have reacted to the pandemic, and are attempting to keep things up and running while ensuring the safety of both their employees and consumers.

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As India and the rest of the world continues to fight and contain the pandemic that is the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), there has been an obvious call for action to be taken by businesses. From advisories to avoid public gatherings to multiple companies providing employees the option to work from home, the gravity of the situation is not lost on anybody.


In these circumstances, it has become especially important for companies that operate large delivery or driver fleets to be proactive, with the number of such businesses having multiplied over the last few years. Be it food delivery apps Swiggy and Zomato, grocery delivery apps Grofers and BigBasket, or even ride hailing firms Ola and Uber, each of them have delivery/driver partners who invariably come in contact with several people over the course of their everyday jobs.

Entrepreneur India takes a look at how these companies have reacted to the pandemic, and are attempting to keep things up and running while ensuring the safety of both their employees and consumers. Google backed-Dunzo, the hyperlocal delivery service that gives customers an option to get just about anything picked and delivered, said it had no comment at this time.

At the time of publication, the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease in India was 81.

Educating Partners

A common theme across the board has been educating these partners.

According to an advisory issued by Swiggy, delivery partners are being trained in best practices of respiratory hygiene, proper method & frequency of washing hands as well as identification of associated symptoms. The Bengaluru-based company said partners had been asked to immediately reach out in case of any such symptoms and that they would be provided with free medical consultation.

Zomato co-founder and chief Deepinder Goyal, in a series of tweets on Friday, said delivery partners were being sent various advisories on the disease released by the ministry and that the company was “especially emphasizing best practices of how to handle food packages to ensure safe and hygienic delivery.”

Swiggy has over 240,000 delivery executives across the country while Zomato, which recently acquired Uber’s food delivery business in India, has over 200,000 such partners.

Ola, which has equipped its walk-in centres across cities with health advisory material, sanitisers and masks, said it was reiterating the importance of practicing recommended personal hygiene through a dedicated preparedness module for driver-partners. Uber said it was “working closely with public health authorities to pass along the most up-to-date guidance on how to protect yourself and others.”

Financial Assistance

To allay concerns over loss of income for delivery partners, both Zomato and Swiggy have said that they would extend financial support to those who display such symptoms and/or are diagnosed with the disease.

“We'll support our delivery partners with financial assistance, on top of medical insurance in case they are diagnosed with COVID-19,” said Zomato’s Goyal.

Uber, too, is following a similar practice and said it was supporting drivers and delivery people who are diagnosed with the disease or are placed in quarantine by a public health authority.

“Drivers and delivery people in these situations will receive compensation for a period of up to 14 days. This has already begun in some markets and we are working to implement mechanisms to do this worldwide,” said Andrew Macdonald, senior vice president of rides and platform at Uber.

Customer Safety

One major theme for all these companies is ensuring the safety of the end consumer.

“We have taken stringent measures to ensure hygiene at the workplace and warehouses alike. Sanitizers have been placed at workstations, and delivery crates are being washed and disinfected after every usage,” said Albinder Dhindsa, co-founder and chief executive officer at Grofers.

Dhindsa also said the company had witnessed an increase in the number of orders on its platform and that it was engaging with customers to smoothen the experience. Grofers said it is committed towards sticking to honest pricing even as market prices are skyrocketing

BigBasket said all warehouse employees were being checked for symptoms and thermally scanned before their entry into any of the warehouses while those handling fruits and vegetables are using disposable face masks and gloves. Customer experience executives, or those who deliver the orders, are also being checked and scanned before they proceed for their respective deliveries.

All deployed assets including currency notes were being handled in a contactless manner through envelopes and plastic covers changed at the end of every delivery slot, the company said. As a second-level preventive protocol, BigBasket has also asked delivery executives to maintain “social distance” at customer locations.

Contactless delivery is something that Zomato has already employed. It can currently been availed through the ‘delivery instructions’ feature and with an app update over the weekend, will be made explicitly clear. Swiggy said customers can request delivery partners to leave the package by the door in case of online payments.