In the wake of globalization, India was compelled to adopt economic liberalization in the 1990s when Dr Manmohan Singh was Finance Minister. Since then, India has established itself as the fastest growing economy of the world which aroused lot of interest of foreign investors. Services industry led by IT and IT enabled services sector has been the main contributor to the GDP followed by industrial and agricultural sectors. As a result, the purchasing power of common Indians has increased multi-fold. Retail sector coupled with emergence of e-commerce has seen accelerated growth and is one of the major beneficiaries.
With limited presence of organized retail players and easy access to technology, e-commerce companies started to grab the market share expanding their reach to unexplored markets. Revolution in mobile phone industry and expansion of Internet to remote areas has further taken the e-commerce to next level. Foreign investments helped these e-commerce companies accumulate enough capital to exponentially gain volumes.
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The Government is not just happily watching it grow but also allowed FDI in multi brand retail since this was creating huge number of jobs. Small traders are the most impacted and they have been lobbying against FDI, e-commerce companies & their trade practices in absence of clearly documented regulations. The issues for small traders were only compounded with demonetization and GST implementation resulting in growing noise. Current BJP government, for which small traders is main vote bank, has slowly started working to introduce regulations sensing potential backlash in next general election. However the discussions on the regulations are mostly limited to FDI, trade practices, competition, data security, secure payments, consumer protection etc..
Last mile logistics is one of the major industry benefited by the spurt in e-commerce creating thousands of jobs across the country. Same goes for the driver partners for the app based cab services like OLA & UBER and food delivery boys for SWIGGY & ZOMATO. With the sudden demand of manpower for last mile delivery, the e-commerce companies have hired people probably without sufficient background checks. Startups jumping into e-commerce business, are more likely to circumvent background verification process given the time, effort & complications involved. There is a possibility that people with criminal history might have sneaked in to these jobs.
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Unobstructed access to delivery boys to private places of consumer is a perfect recipe for crime. Lonely ladies at home or secluded places are most vulnerable. There have already been quite a few cases related to rape, molestation, theft, cheating, intimidation etc.. The recent case of ZOMATO was just a tip of the iceberg, the internet is full of genuine incidents. With the expansion of these services to remote areas, the problem is only expected to spiral up further. The big companies have started introducing security features and checks & balances but these are more of reactive measures and only time will tell how effective these are going to be.
Read this thread as an example – https://twitter.com/AkankshaHazari/status/1072365338023612417
On the other hand, there have been complaints of exploitation of the delivery boys, driver partners by employers. In absence of strong workers unions, there isn’t sufficient representation of their concerns at right forum. This exploitation may further aggravate the situation and may trigger the employees to adopt wrongful ways.
These issues have existed even before but e-commerce has thrown limelight on it due to its spread. In view of these security risks, there is a desperate need for introducing regulations around this logistics aspect as well to ensure more proactive measures like stringent background verification by local police department, mandatory security features on the e-commerce tools, employee grievance redressal forum for delivery boys & driver partners. By raising this issue, we don’t intend to take away the employment and in turn opportunity to reform a person with criminal history but simply suggesting that they could be employed in supervised environments to avoid any untoward incident.
With a hope that policy makers will take a note of these concerns, consumers in the meantime should continue to take precautions at their end when availing e-commerce services.