Zomato Instant is banking on impersonal algorithms to implement its insanely quick 10-minute food delivery plans. However, that may not work till some fundamental personnel problems, mostly overlooked till now, are fixed.
“Though Zomato claims its hyperlocal demand-predicting algorithms will facilitate the 10-minute deliveries, the human element in partner kitchens and delivery crew, and ambient road conditions are unpredictable,” said Bobby Verghese, consumer analyst at GlobalData.
Zomato Instant, which promises to deliver food in 10 minutes from “finishing stations”, will only serve “items that are popular, standardised and can be dispatched in two minutes”, according to CEO Deepinder Goyal.
Inside Zomato’s plan
How will it do that? With algorithms.
These problem-solving mathematical instructions will predict demand, match customers to neighbourhood kitchens, and assign available drivers for short-distance deliveries. These quick deliveries, it claims, equal “lesser time spent on the road”.
However, that may be overambitious. After all, travelling in India is always unpredictable.
Indian roads are often wrecked and the traffic unruly. Maps can be inaccurate, lacking finer details.
“Google Maps does not predict how long it will take for the delivery executive to go from outside the (residential) society’s gates to actually reach your door and handing over the package,” Zomato rival Swiggy has acknowledged before.
Besides, an accident only needs a second, or less, to occur. In such an event, Zomato is unlikely to have to protect them, riders fear based on past instances.
Then there is the company’s assurance that its personnel will not be penalised for delays.
Zomato’s riders do not buy the “no penalty” assurance. The company’s fined them in the past even for reasons beyond their control.
“It has not been able to resolve issues like leaked meals which arise from faulty packaging and executing fast delivery,” said Shaik Salauddin, national general secretary of the Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers. “As a result, delivery partners have been penalised quite a few times.”
The company also needs to improve the prevailing poor working conditions.
“Delivery workers work for more than 10 hours and the platform actively engages such practices by not setting any cap on maximum hours that a delivery worker can log in for,” said Salauddin. They also lack proper access to washroom facilities, resting areas, charging stations, and wifi.
“While planning to provide 10-minute deliveries to its customers, Zomato needs to resolve these issues and concerns,” said Salauddin. “We urge Zomato to look at their delivery workers as human beings who are more than data points for the algorithm to manage.”
This article first appeared on Quartz.