I was in Hyderabad last week, sitting in my cab, insulated from the pollution all around me. The cab was air conditioned, had picked me up from a fancy apartment where we were staying and was supposed to drop me at the Salar Jung museum. Everything sounds great, except the fact that the Uber cab driver, who was driving me and my wife, would be spending ten more hours in his cab, driving through the insane traffic. Yet, he was happy, welcoming, and warm. He helped me to keep the luggage, and not to forget, suggested me couple of good places to dine at. I gave him a five star rating, enough to make him delighted. A five star rating ensures that he will get more rides, more money and sadly, more health problems.
As we were cutting through the traffic, ahead of me was a delivery boy, carrying a bag, roughly as big as he himself was. He was an integral (but easily disposable) part of the e-commerce community. I prayed for his back; which I knew will collapse in few more years and whatever money he earned, will probably go into fixing it.
The App economy works well; very well if you are the one who is using it and not getting used by it. It’s not only about the Apps, it is about our entire lifestyle. We had actually gone to Hyderabad to attend a friend’s wedding. The venue was grand, and the food spread wider than the imagination. It was a huge convention centre, able to handle a few thousand guests. As the wedding was about to get over, I went to the back side of the convention centre and found dozens of ladies, children and old persons sleeping on the grass; some of them were little kids of the waiters serving delicacies inside, some of them were the people who would be cleaning the venue when we all were done littering it.
I am wondering about the balance of opportunities generated versus the problems created by this kind of lifestyle of ours.
I am sure, there is a lot of employment generated because of the way we live and because of the Apps economy. But, I think it does more harm than the help. The people who we think are getting benefitted, i.e. the cab drivers, delivery boys, cleaners etc., sure, they are getting more income than what they otherwise would get. But, the cost which they will be paying back, looks much higher than what they are earning.
I happened to read a few detailed articles on internet about the consequences of this kind of work one the health of people who do it. For instance, delivery boys will find their backs dismantled (!) within a few years, the cab drivers will suffer from joints and nerves problems; just to mention a few.
Every time I go to the gate of my company to receive my Amazon or Flipkart shipment, the size of the bag makes me feel guilty. Whenever I sit in an Uber or Ola cab, I can make out that the driver will be in this box for the entire day and even till late night.
You can always make the argument- who is forcing them to join the work? They can stop being drivers, delivery boys or what so ever. Sadly, no one can afford to worry about the pain and suffering of the future at the cost of dying hungry today. It’s quite human to compromise on one’s health for more money.
The purpose of writing this article is not criticizing the companies that are being mentioned above or those which operate on a similar model and philosophy. The purpose is to remind ourselves that we are humans.
As human beings, we can live happily only if we care for other human beings. If consumers demand that proper care should be taken of the people working at the bottom of the system, it will be taken. If the consumers insist that they will make use of /buy from copmanies which take sufficient care of the people working for them, VCs will spend few million more dollars to ensure that it happens. As consumers, the onus is on us, to demand. Sadly, we are too busy calling cabs and ordering rolls on the go and do not pay a dime to other human beings and their basic welfare.