Late at night returning after visiting a near and dear one at a hospital, one expects the road to be quiet and free of traffic. Then suddenly whoosh on the left and wham on the right. No, not some doctored stunt, but two bikers out on a mission.
At my favourite juice place in Mumbai. The juice is good as usual. It hydrates. But walk into the wash room after all that hydration and it is always locked. Five minutes and another juice later try again. Still locked. And then a biker on a mission emerges and zooms off.
Went for an early morning walk. At a place where pigeons are normally fed, there are fewer pigeons and more bikers managing an early morning assembly.
No, these are not members of a new fad of whoosh and swish bikers.
They are the emerging phenomenon taking over not just the roads but also wash rooms and even the pigeon feeding areas of our already crowded metros at all times.
These are the now ubiquitous delivery boys of apps like Zomato and Swiggy.
Besides wash room challenges and hungry pigeons, this phenomenon of D-Boys have also been involved in incidences like consuming a customer's comestibles causing a fair amount of consternation.
Step back a bit on this phenomenon and you realise that the cause of this whishing, whooshing and consuming someone else's food has a lot to do with the propositions of the apps that have caused this road crisis.
Armed with unprecedented amounts of funding Zomato and Swiggy are offering customers fulfillment promises that are literally making delivery boys try and go faster than rockets in the urban mayhem that our metros are. One single gulab jamun from your favourite mithaiwala - delivered in a flash. Three different items from three different restaurants, all picked up and delivered in thirty minutes.
I had written about the campaign related aspects of one of these apps last year and the content below can almost be read as a continuation of the same. Rather than promising the impossible, then not being able to deliver and having unintended consequences like hungry delivery boys eating from a package it is time for apps to align their proposition with a sincere reality check.
1) Consistent and constant rather than fast and furious
Take the world standard on this. Singapore Airlines. The flight time from say Ho Chi Minh City to Singapore will be officially shown as two hours. Expectations set. And the flight will actually reach in 90 minutes. Expectations exceeded!
Rather than promising delivery within impossible timeframes why can't apps show the current traffic situation (Google Maps shows it anyways) add the preparation, packaging time and provide a realistic delivery time to set expectations? No disappointed and screaming customers and no tired delivery boys digging into delivery boxes!
Also take Grab and in India's case Uber which provide an update on where your driver is all the time before the driver arrives. The same update on food delivery showing the actual traffic situation can be shown to hungry customers to allay their 'deliver now' pangs.
2) Eco friendly not just in terms of packaging
Think of an outstanding institution like the Dabbawalas of Mumbai. They do not add to Mumbai's already crowded streets by riding bikes dangerously. They have been delivering consistently by using one of Mumbai's oldest and most popular means of public transport the local train. Apps can also provide customers an option to get their food delivered through public transport even if it takes slightly more time.
3) Packaging technology
All of us are aware of how the likes of Tetra Pak revolutionised storage of perishable foods with its aseptic packaging technology and its products which provide optimal food safety, hygiene, and distribution efficiency.
It is time for apps to partner with brands like that to create safe, secure and tamper proof packaging that can endure not just long rides and bumps but also hungry delivery men who may perhaps have not eaten the whole day.
4) Cover with coffee
The incredible experience that Starbucks provides, every time has a lot of additional factors besides their coffee. Starbucks was one of the few companies to show its care for employees by providing medical and dental cover.
It will help if these app companies provide accident and health cover for these delivery boys given the dangers they face every minute on our roads.
After all social swag makes a better Swiggy and humanity adds Zing to Zomato. And customers can sing 'Apna delivery boy time pe aayega aur achcha khana layega'.
(The author is a senior consumer marketing and financial services professional based in Vietnam, who has lived and worked in India, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai. His book 'Marketing Chronicles' continues to be a best seller in the marketing books section on Amazon India since October 2017.)