With a Paytm employee testing positive for coronavirus and Covid-19, the coronavirus outbreak finally reached the doorstep of India’s startup ecosystem. After the confirmation from Paytm, many other companies have allowed their employees to either work remotely from their homes or to even go on paid leaves.
But with food delivery expected to pick up as more people continue to work from home, the question here arises is what are food delivery companies doing anything to curb the spread of the deadly virus?
As it turns out delivery partners and agents, who are the face of Zomato and Swiggy for customers, have no clue about the steps needed to be taken to avoid the spread of infection.
Safety Not On The Menu For Swiggy, Zomato?
Multiple delivery-partners from unicorns Zomato and Swiggy in Delhi told Inc42 that neither company has actually issued any instructions with regards to safety and hygiene.
While Zomato and Swiggy claim to be doing much to make the lives of delivery agents better, neither have informed their agents about personal hygiene, handling of food coronavirus or how to minimise the spread of infection.
In response to Inc42’s queries, Zomato simply said, “We are actively working with our delivery and restaurant partners to ensure food safety and health precautions.”
However, even after we received this statement, Zomato delivery agents said that no instructions or advisory has been issued.
Swiggy also said that it is fully committed to ensuring the safety of consumers, restaurant partners, delivery partners and employees. “We are closely monitoring the situation and are following relevant government recommendations,” a spokesperson said.
Swiggy claimed that it is training delivery partners on mitigating the risk of contracting coronavirus, as well as identifying symptoms. “Daily information updates on precautionary measures are also being shared through the delivery partner app to educate them further,” the company added.
Inc42 confirmed with Swiggy delivery agents that the information has been shared on the app, however, it was only shared on March 3, well after new coronavirus confirmed infection cases had emerged towards the end of the February.
Both Swiggy and Zomato have employed logistics partners such as Shadowfax for some deliveries. Shadowfax delivery executives told Inc42 that the logistics startup has shared an advisory on personal hygiene and preventive measures.
Swiggy also claimed that employees and the kitchen staff in its Swiggy Access cloud kitchen business are also being educated and encouraged to follow the practices recommended by the World Health Organisation to stay safe.
Delivering Coronavirus Misinformation
While many delivery-partners did not claim to have seen any impact on the number of orders due to the coronavirus epidemic, almost all of them knew about the worsening situation. But fake or scientifically wrong information about the epidemic has already taken over everyday lives in India as indicated by our interactions with some delivery agents.
Two delivery-partners told us that coronavirus is more prevalent in China as they consume more meat as compared to India. “If we stop eating meat then, of course, all of this would stop,” a delivery partner said on the condition of anonymity.
Another delivery agent said that everything is seasonal. “First it was swine flu, now it is a coronavirus. It’ll also pass soon,” he added.
Ironically, at least two new cases of swine flu were discovered in India this week.