Aishwarya Ramesh

What's the real cost of brand perception around super-fast delivery?

Zomato and Grofers have landed in hot water over concerns that promises of fast delivery endanger the company's delivery partners.

The conversation around delivery boys on social media in the past few days has had a tone of concern and sharp criticism. First was Zomato which was criticised for its ads with Bollywood stars Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif and second was Grofers – criticised for a tweet about a delivery made in 13 minutes.

Grofers recently announced it has started 10 minutes grocery delivery service in 10 cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata. In a blog post it mentions that the average delivery time is 15 minutes but they aim to bring it down to ten in the next couple of months.

What's the real cost of brand perception around super-fast delivery?

Some people are criticising Zomato’s ads for its depiction of its delivery fleet. A delivery boy delivers a food order to Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan and while the actor asks for a selfie, the delivery boy cannot oblige because he has to fulfil his next order.

The ad takes place in a rainy setting where the man is seen travelling with a Zomato branded raincoat. In the ad, the delivery boy is seen as being proud of himself for making the choice between a selfie with a star and the next hungry customer and Twitter couldn’t help but notice other aspects of the ad.

Some Twitter users called it problematic that the delivery boy was so busy that he couldn’t stick around for a few extra minutes to indulge in a selfie. Some went as far as to say that it normalised a stressful work environment – glorifying it even. The ad was criticised for being tone deaf. Zomato’s ad with actress Katrina Kaif was also criticised for similar reasons.

Zomato took to social media to respond to the backlash the ad had been getting. “We have been listening intently to the chatter about gig workers and the problems associated with this part of the economy. We understand you expect more and better from us,” mentions the tweet, which goes on to suggest that Zomato might be publishing a blog post to show how the delivery partners are fairly compensated for their time and effort.

Zomato isn’t the only delivery service that has been in hot water for the past few days. Grofers co-founder Albinder Dhindsa was also criticised for a tweet he had sent out about a 13 minute delivery made by his fleet. A user argued that these were groceries, not life-saving medicines or emergency supplies. It also raised subsequent concerns about the safety of the delivery personnel who may have to resort to fast and possibly unsafe driving in order to meet the delivery-time targets.

What's the real cost of brand perception around super-fast delivery?

Keep in mind that Grofers announced last week that it would be delivering groceries in ten minutes flat. An ambitious offer to make – considering that most cities face issues with traffic, bad roads, creating a somewhat unsafe delivery environment (at times) for a delivery personnel to operate in top speed in.

Dhindsa, the CEO of Grofers took to social media to clarify that the company was not endangering its riders by making the 10-minute delivery promise. He clarified that even if the driver was driving at 10kmph, they would still be able to meet the delivery-time target. His post clarified that the presence of warehouses in each neighbourhood ensures that the groceries are readily available in order to facilitate quick deliveries.

Despite the clarifications from companies, doubts are bound to persist in consumers’ minds. There have been a lot of conversations on social media which suggest that delivery fleet members are underpaid and overworked.

These are the men and women who wear the uniforms with the company’s name and motto on it – they are unsung representatives of the brand itself. Like any job, it has its risks and rewards – the people who work hard at it are bound to succeed, but people allege that better working conditions directly translate to better opportunities and more headroom for growth.

Thanks to the COVID pandemic, many players got into the grocery delivery business. The segment's major players include Dunzo, BigBasket, Swiggy, Zomato, JioMart and Godrej's Nature's Basket.

Some of these services require that a customer book a slot in advance - and the delivery of items is subject to both stock and slot availability. Grofers' and Dunzo's quick delivery system aims to bypass the slot-booking process to help users directly get groceries delivered to their doorstep.

It's a fine tightrope that these brands have to carefully walk. On one hand, these brands can be seen as efficient and reliable when they make these fast deliveries but on the other hand, there is concern about delivery partners and their safety when it comes to making these breakneck speed deliveries.

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