A state-level football player for several years, 24-year-old Khatun, joined East Bengal Football Club’s newly formed women’s team as goalkeeper some months ago. Covid-19 – and the lockdown – put a stop to that, hitting her income and forcing Khatun to take up a job at Flipkart as a data entry operator.
“I found an indoor job a little boring. An opportunity to be part of the delivery network excited me,” she said.
She switched to the large goods supply chain, which involves visiting customer locations to deliver items. A typical day starts at 5 am when she gets in some football practice, then reporting to work at 7am, after which she and a driver set off with the consignments. She averages 15-16 deliveries a day–everything from washing machines to beds-and has a personal best of 23 deliveries, a record for her hub. The job gives her a lot of satisfaction, said Khatun, and she hopes to continue with it in some form, even after returning to football once the pandemic is over.
“We moved out of our village over a decade ago as we faced a lot of taunts because I was a girl playing football. But my family supported me, and even after my father’s sudden death, I continued. Now I don’t let any jibes bother me,” she said.
Women such as Khatun are still in the minority but their numbers are gradually scaling up across the ecommerce ecosystem. Several Flipkart’s fulfilment centres (FCs) such as Farrukhnagar in Haryana and delivery hubs in areas like Wadi, Nagpur, and hubs in Howrah, Kolkata, have women ‘wishmasters,’ which is what field staff are called. Others like BigBasket, Swiggy and Amazon are also hiring more women delivery agents. Amazon set up an all-women delivery station in Gujarat last month.
Improvement in Gender Diversity Ratio
“We’ve taken various initiatives, mainly around safety, and creating a conducive culture to attract women into our supply chain fold,” said Amitesh Jha, senior vice president, Ekart and marketplace, Flipkart.
TeamLease Services cofounder Rituparna Chakraborty said that large ecommerce and logistics players are actively committed to improving the gender diversity ratio. “From about 7-10% of the overall delivery agent workforce about a quarter ago, now most companies are looking at improving it to 25% in the medium to long term with an eye on improving productivity, reducing turnover as well as increasing the talent pool,” she said.
Additionally, men and women who have either been rendered jobless or had their earning potential significantly reduced because of the pandemic are looking at picking up delivery agent roles, Chakraborty said. “It has become an effective stopgap solution,” she said.