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Urban Company is the best app-based platform to work with in India: report

Swiggy, Zomato, and Uber are the worst app-based platforms for Indian workers, says the 'Fairwork India Rating 2020' report

Food delivery workers associated with app based platform companies
Food delivery workers associated with app based platform companies

Home services platform Urban Company is the best app-based platform to work with in India, according to a report published on Tuesday.

In its second edition in India, the Fairwork India Rating 2020: Labour Standards in the Platform Economy report looked at 11 app-based platforms and ranked them based on the five parameters—pay, working condition, contracts, management and representation—to ascertain fair labour practices.

The potential to earn more, with the flexibility to chose one's work hours, have been some of the attractions of working with app-based platforms. But workers in many of the app-based platforms didn’t earn much above the local minimum wages when costs incurred by them were factored in, the report states.

The report highlights concerns about jobs having limited or no social security or benefits, and many workers finding the contracts or terms and conditions inaccessible or incomprehensible.

Urban Company took the lead scoring eight of 10 in the scoreboard. Flipkart earned seven points, while Swiggy, Zomato and Uber received just one out of 10. The other platforms included in the ranking this year were Dunzo, Grofers, Amazon, Bigbasket, Housejoy and Ola.

Last year, out of the 12 companies it analysed, Foodpanda (acquired by Ola), Ola and Uber scored two points each. The list also included Rapido, UrbanClap and UberEats.

According to the 2020 report, seven out of 11 platforms provided “insufficient evidence” that workers earned the minimum wage rate after meeting their expenses. Urban Company, Flipkart, Grofers and Ola were the exceptions.

The report emphasises the need for consultation with workers on pay regulations. When it came to social security, only Urban Company and Flipkart offered some measures to improve working conditions. Dunzo and Urban Company also ensured that their workers understood the terms and conditions and their employment contacts. Some platforms also recruit labour from subcontractors, which makes it difficult for workers to figure out who to approach if they have issues regarding their working conditions, payment, or any other redressal.

In fair management practices, most companies did well by providing channels for communication and appealing disciplinary decisions like deactivations. However, Urban Company and Flipkart went a step further. The former blocks customers who discriminate against its workers, while the latter has taken initiatives to hire women and people with physical disability in its last-mile service. None of the platforms was open to discussions with worker associations and unions.

“The primary reason why people are attracted to these platforms is because they get paid frequently but how much do they actually get in hand, is a question," said Professor Balaji Parthasarathy, who led the team, and is associated with Centre for IT and Public Policy (CITAPP) at the International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (IIITB) to create the report. "Then there is this notion of flexibility. If you see, a certain percentage of this income comes from incentives. In many platforms these incentives have been decreasing. So, to make the same amount of money, the person now has to put in much more time.”

Janaki Srinivasan, assistant professor at IITB, and research assistants Mounika Neerukonda and Pradyumna Taduri were other members of the Fairwork India team who gathered the findings based on their research, interviewing workers and the stakeholders at the app-based platforms. The report has been created in partnership with the University of Oxford and the University of Manchester, UK.

Prof Parthasarathy added that the report not only aims at showcasing the best practices that are out there but also guide other platforms in that direction.

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