On a hot and sticky afternoon in New Delhi, Komal navigates through heavy traffic on her white two-wheeler, with a massive, black bag carefully tucked in the front and a page with addresses scribbled on it tapped to the handle. The 20-year-old is one of the first female delivery drivers in India.
The bag is loaded with packages that need to be delivered around the city and on time. “I want to deliver all these packages as quickly as possible so that I can return home early,” she says.
Komal works for Even Cargo, a startup company that offers delivery services for e-commerce companies in the Indian capital. A class 12th pass out, Komal started the job a few months ago to support her family after her father passed away.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
India is a country that is high on patriarchy. Women’s access to jobs and public spaces is still highly restricted, and carrying out odd jobs such as delivering packages, which involves showing up on strangers’ doorsteps, is seen as a taboo.
According to a March 2017 report by the World Bank, which analysed the Indian government’s data from 2004-05 to 2011-12, as many as 19.6 million women dropped out of the workforce during the period. Out of this, women from rural areas accounted for 53 percent. The report noted a sharp decline in female labor force participation from 36 percent in 2005 to 27 percent in 2013. Some experts believe that gender and social norms in the country, which see a woman’s role in society only limited to her home, as the prime reasons.
To overturn this drop, Even Cargo was founded by Yogesh Kumar in May 2016. The idea is to break the male dominance in the ever-growing logistics business in India. Currently, Even Cargo, which hires only women, has 20 delivery associates. The company provides self-defense training before employing a new associate.
However, for now, the company only does daytime delivery and provides services on only certain routes that it believes are safer for its women employees. “We are trying to bring in the change, but it will take some time,” says Karina Bhasin, community manager at Even Cargo.