Curtains Fall

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After August 5 shutdown, most of the courier and the parcel delivery companies working with the e-commerce outlets have closed forcing almost 500 young men to joblessness, reports Saifullah Bashir

With the resume in his backpack, Suhail Parvaiz, 27, roams around the city for most of the day to find a job. Till August 5, he was a decent earner and overnight he lost his job.

Express Bees, the company Parvaiz was working with, asked him not to come office till the resumption of the internet.  Son of a street vendor, he had joined the organisation in February 2019. Less than half a year later, he lost the job.

“Our work is wholly dependent on the internet. Customers book their orders online and we used to deliver them and earn our livelihood,” Suhail said. “Since the internet is suspended I couldn’t earn a penny.”

Around 80 youth were working for Express Bees at its two branches and all of them are living hard days. “I used to deliver more than 100 parcels daily so that I could earn more but now I have no work,” said Suhail. Since then he is trying to get any alternate job but is yet to find one.

Now he is killing his time by sitting with a coppersmith friend, who pays him nothing. “I spend a full day with him so that my parents do not land in stress because of my joblessness.”

Mohammad Hayat, 28, an old city resident was Suhail’s colleague, earning a decent Rs 9000 a month. To feed his family, he started selling Momos, a Chinese fast food.

“In order to earn something, I purchased an auto-rickshaw but  there was hardly any earning,” Hayat said. “Then my cousin suggested me to re-open his old shop where I agreed to sell Momos”.

Batamaloo resident, Suhail Rashid, 20, wants to lessen the burden of his mason father and so joined Myntra as a delivery boy in February 2019. Since the job came with the undertaking that he owns and drives a motorcycle, Suhil lifted aRs 70,000 loan from a bank on an EMI of Rs 2500. Part of his monthly earning would go in debt servicing, still the family was happy.

August 5, changed everything. He is unable to work and pay his debt. His bank account has turned into an NPA. “I want to sell the motorcycle but I am not  getting the true value,” said the frustrated young man who now goes to a shop where his pay is too low to manage himself.

“We had 65 employees working for us including 50 courier boys, getting anything between Rs 8000 and Rs 13,000, a month,” said an official of the Myntra, speaking off the record.  “We operated from LalChowk where we paid a rent of Rs 41000 per month. Our sales were Rs 5 lakh per day. After 5 Aug there is no internet connection and we collapsed. All our employees lost their jobs”.

Almost half a dozen companies would receive and deliver parcels. They mostly worked for various e-commerce vendors like Myntra, Amazon, Express Bees, Blue Dart and Flipkart. Most of these companies have literally closed as their business was linked to the internet.

Shadowfax started its journey in 2012 and in seven years grew to a size where they required 70 men to deliver their parcels. They would pay up to Rs 15,000, per person per month and deliver 2000 shipments across Kashmir daily. After the internet went down, the company is suffering a loss of Rs 12 lakh per day.

Irfan Ahmad is the Cluster Manager for Express Bee. The situation has frustrated him. They started from Rainawari in February 2018. Then the company added two branches, one each in Hyderpora and Baramulla. At Hyderpora alone, the premises would cost them Rs 80,000, a month.

“We had 35 courier boys working on packages worth Rs 10,000 to Rs 13,000 per month and we used to deliver 2500 parcels daily,” Irfan said. “After August 5, all our branches are shut. The company has paid two-month salary to courier boys but not after September.” Irfan now handles seven employees merely for the sake of retaining the company presence. Some of the employees, however, were posted outside Kashmir. They are unhappy that whatever they earn goes to their food and shelter.

While they are suffering, they are getting complaints from customers who had purchased items online before the internet went down. “I paid Rs 4500 for headphone and shirt but till now I didn’t receive any parcel nor any refund,” said Waseem Khan, a Srinagar resident.

Batamaloo’s Adil Ahmed had purchased books worth Rs 1500. He is still waiting for the parcel.

“The money is not lost,” said the supervisor of one such company. “We will refund but only after the restoration of the internet.”

(Saifullah is on an internship with Kashmir Life)

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