Chennai, Bengaluru: Zomato’s pilot project proposing 10-minute delivery to consumers has lawmakers concerned about road safety and possible traffic violations in southern states including Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
On Friday, Chennai’s traffic administrators summoned company executives, seeking clarification about the infrastructure required for the safe operations of quick delivery services, people aware of the discussions told ET.
Sources said Zomato clarified that 10-minute delivery was a "pilot project" for select cities and that it would not be implemented in Chennai for now. Traffic regulators then sought an assurance from Zomato that it would make prior disclosure about its plans for Chennai, they added.
"We wanted to ensure the department was aware of the systems and practices before they implemented them," a senior police officer who was part of the meeting told ET. The meeting also discussed "traffic violations by delivery partners. It follows a July 2021 meeting with food delivery companies on road safety and best practices, "he added.
Karnataka home minister Araga Jnanendra told ET that he would ask senior police officers to look into claims of instant delivery by app-based food delivery companies. "Even the police department’s emergency response vehicles have not been able to make this kind of commitment to citizens," he said.
A representative for Zomato confirmed that the instant delivery pilot is currently restricted to Gurgaon, adding that "if needed, we look forward to working with local authorities when Zomato Instant launches in their respective locations."
Social media outrage
The food delivery, dining, and restaurant discovery service expects to reduce the road distance travelled per order, leading to improved road safety for our delivery partners over time, it said.
On the condition of anonymity, company executives said Zomato is in talks with state authorities as well as delivery executives to allay fears over instant delivery, which has attracted widespread scepticism, particularly on social media, in recent days.
Deepinder Goyal had to resort to a follow-up thread on social media to explain that delivery partners would not know the promised delivery time, the menu would be standardised and that items would be delivered to "specific, nearby" locations only.
In Karnataka, traffic police have held frequent discussions with food aggregators over road safety. Tempers have run high among politicians and police officers in Bengaluru over the frenetic, at times frenetic, dash by delivery partners to meet targets.
The occupational hazards of a delivery partner have also been debated in Parliament. Last week, Karti P Chidambaram, MP from Tamil Nadu’s Sivaganga, spoke of insurers refusing to honour accident claims of delivery employees. He also raised questions over delivery executives' driving a personal motor vehicle for commercial delivery.
Meanwhile, Karnataka minister Jnanendra pointed to "every chance of young delivery employees risking their own lives, as well as those of others, while trying to keep this unrealistic deadline in Bengaluru’s busy traffic. I request people not to fall prey to these claims. "
Speaking to ET about the recent meeting between food delivery executives and the traffic regulators in Chennai, sources said representatives of Swiggy and other delivery companies, who also participated, told the police they do not have any plans at the moment for 10-minute delivery services.
Swiggy did not reply to ET’s queries on the development.
For restaurants and delivery partners, Zomato said instant delivery would not reduce margins, as feared, but would make it cheaper for customers as it would be a hyperlocal service. "Finishing stations" would pack off 20–30 bestseller dishes from nearby restaurants, cutting delivery time.
"If Zomato Instant works as planned, it will be a true innovation that will drive the future of how people consume food," said a Zomato spokesperson. "We just hope we are able to create more jobs and encourage more blue-collar workers to join our fleet, where they earn more and are able to achieve more stability and control in their lives. The service is due to take off from four stations in Gurgaon next month."