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FOCUS WORLD - In Asia, e-biz clicks: India

'Wishmasters' weave through traffic to fulfil orders

As the Internet makes it simpler and faster for people the world over to shop, eat and do business - even order make-up or hijab styling online - energetic young working people are cashing in as easily and quickly as e-companies and e-customers. The Straits Times team of correspondents in Indonesia, China and India chased down some of them and - after catching a breath - brings you their stories.

Dwarfed by a big blue bag on his shoulders, Mr Neeraj Prasad Jaiswal carefully manoeuvres between other vehicles on his Honda motorbike down a chaotic Delhi road.

It takes him 40 minutes  just to negotiate a 4km stretch. When he hops off his motorbike in a leafy upmarket residential area and wipes the sweat from his face, he discovers that his first customer of the day has already left home and rescheduled the delivery for another day.

"Traffic is my biggest challenge. But it is a problem for everyone,'' says Mr Jaiswal with a shrug. As a deliveryman for Indian e-commerce website Flipkart, he delivers 35 to 40 packages a day. On his best day so far, he managed to deliver 60 packages.

His customers range from a driver who orders a phone and pays cash on the road outside the house where he works to a housewife who buys clothes and pays online. 

"What's your name,'' asks the housewife, the only one in the day to ask his name as he effortlessly lifts his bag, which weighs at least 10kg, and hitches it to his shoulder.

  • INDIA'S E-COMMERCE: FACTS & FIGURES

  • 1 MILLION

  • Number of people employed in different aspects of  e- commerce.

  • 13,000-25,000 

  • Monthly wages, in rupees, of a deliveryman, or S$280-S$540.

  • US$120 BILLION

  • Size of the market by 2020, up from US$38 billion  in 2016.

  • SOURCE: ASSOCHAM AND FORRESTER

BUSIER THAN EVER

A lot of people are buying online. In the past I used to deliver 40 to 50 packages on average. Now it can go up to 150 a day.

MR NAGAJURNA S.., who delivers packages for Flipkart.

Mr Jaiswal joined Flipkart 10 months ago and is one among thousands of "wishmasters", as the firm calls them, working against traffic amid intense competition between e-commerce companies that promise the fastest delivery for the most competitively priced products. 

E-commerce is growing in India. More than 400 million Indians are already online in a population of 1.25 billion with 25 million Internet users being added every year.  

Now firms are dependent on deliverymen, the one human element in the transaction as they try to woo customers with the best customer experience.

In the southern city of Bengaluru, 24-year-old Nagarjuna S., another Flipkart deliveryman and a commerce graduate, has just finished dealing with an irate customer.

"He was really angry and he started screaming abuse at me. He wanted a replacement but had chosen the wrong option online. So I explained what had happened and he calmed down after a while,'' says Mr Nagarjuna. "There was no point in both of us getting angry."

While his personal best is delivering 260 packages a day during the Big Billion Day sale - Flipkart's flagship sale in October - he makes around 150 deliveries a day. 

"A lot of people are buying online. In the past I used to deliver 40 to 50 packages on average. Now it can go up to 150 a day,'' says Mr Nagarjuna, who on a warm Friday has delivered 68 packages in six hours. 

"I don't feel the pressure anymore. I have the experience and I know how to talk to customers.''

VIDEO: Delivery riders face challenging traffic in Delhi

http://str.sg/flipkart

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2017, with the headline ''Wishmasters' weave through traffic to fulfil orders'. Print Edition | Subscribe