Uber Eats Sri Lanka Country Lead Bhavna Dadlani
To mark this International Women’s Day, Uber Eats
Sri Lanka Lead Bhavna Dadlani pledged to scale up the number of women delivery and restaurant partners from 100 to 1,000 by the end of this year. This will be done as part of the ‘Diviyata Diriya’ umbrella initiative to create and enable equal access to economic opportunities for women and other marginalised communities in Sri Lanka. Celebrating its work for women, Uber Eats organised a Women’s Day event where Dadlani spoke to Daily FT about the opportunities created, female partners empowered and measures implemented to assist and ensure the
safety of women working on the platform.
By Divya Thotawatte
Q: What special measures has Uber Eats taken to make the platform more accessible to women?
A: We have taken a number of measures because we are passionate about empowering women through the app. In terms of encouraging them to join the platform, we offer joining discounts to female courier partners, and we also offer starter packs with a bag, t-shirts and everything else they need to get set up for the next few months when driving on the platform. Furthermore, we have referral programs so that we will be able to extend the opportunity to more female restaurant and delivery partners.
Q: How many female delivery partners are currently working with the app? How do you plan to increase the number and attract women to join the delivery service?
A: As of last month, there were more than 100 female delivery partners working with us in Colombo, Negombo and Kandy. Aside from the joining discount and referral programs, we are looking at a couple of other initiatives that we will be doing to help a lot more join the platform.
For instance, we are unlocking credit solutions through our partnerships so that women who are unable to access a vehicle will be able to do so and start driving on the platform. We also have noticed that there is some stigma when it comes to women driving, so we are trying to erase that and understand what the challenges are and implement solutions to address those.
Q: In a country where the population is more than 50% female, do you expect for the platform to have at least 50% female employees and partners? What targets do you have for this year?
A: We would love to get there. By the end of this year, we are hoping to have 1,000 female delivery partners working with us. Now, we know that it is about 34% of labour participation here and a huge number is locked out. We are hoping that opportunities like this will encourage more female partners to join us and it will help get that balance overall for the economy, because the way that we see it, of the 100 delivery partners that we already have, a lot of them were not earning at all previously. Uber Eats has got them into the earning cycle, which will positively contribute to the economy. We are hoping to be one of the catalysts to cause that shift and that is one of our aspirations when we lean towards the goal of 1,000 female partners by the end of the year.
Q: As part of the gig economy, how does Uber Eats plan to address issues that arise regarding human rights and women’s rights?
A: We are really passionate about conducting initiatives within that space. We have focus group discussions on a monthly basis for female partners where they come to office and speak about the challenges they would have to face. Based on what we hear on those challenges, we will also think of which solutions to implement for them. It was during those focus group discussions that we heard about the pinpoints around spending a lot of time on the roads and not having access to public toilets. This made us work with our restaurant partners to create that sanitation facility for female delivery partners. In that way, we feel that the more we listen to them and the more we have those forums to hear them, then we are able to address issues that come up more and more.
Q: What measures have you taken to ensure the safety of female delivery partners? Is there an emergency hotline, a mechanism to assist them if they are in trouble or get injured or a platform to help if they face harassment?
A: Yes, absolutely. One of our safety features is blocking out geo locations which they might not feel safe delivering to. Other than that, we have a dedicated hotline for them that they will be able to reach out to at any given time, on-trip or off-trip. They can talk about any challenges that they are having, raise any questions that they might have. Aside from that, they also have access to a safety toolkit which has two features. One is the SOS feature which directly connects them to an emergency hotline and the second one is the ability to share the trip details with their friends or family, then there will be other parties who are aware of exactly where they are.
Q: Are there programs to foster entrepreneurship conducted by Uber Eats? What mentoring and formalised training programs for women are being conducted?
A: We don’t have such programs just yet, but that is one of the things that I have been working on, in terms of creating sessions for our female partners. For a lot of them, it is their first earning opportunity and we want to touch on the basics like building confidence, financial management and entrepreneurship. Those are some of the plans that we have in store for the rest of the year.
Q: How will Uber Eats empower women such as single mothers to gain financial independence while they still have other commitments at home?
A: One of the biggest benefits that our female partners have found working on the platform is the flexible working opportunity, which means that they are not tied to any specific time slot during the day or any specific day of the week. They can clock in and clock out at any time they want and that is really helpful to single mothers because they can drive for a few hours in the morning, then maybe they can drop off their child at school and then drive again. The concept of earning flexibly has unlocked that opportunity for them.
Q: How does Uber Eats empower and attract female restaurant owners?
A: We speak at forums to talk about all the opportunities we have on the platform as a delivery partner or as a restaurant partner. Also, depending on skill sets, we see women either more attracted to the delivery option or the restaurant option. We even had a couple of women who wanted to do both. Therefore, it depends on their interests and skill sets and, we help enable that to happen. If they have questions on how to actually take off, we can assist them a little, explain what they should be thinking of, give them that inspiration and work with them through their first month or so on the platform until they understand how to use the tab. We provide them with training so that they are thinking of all the elements to help maximise their earnings on the platform. We do a lot of handholding through the process, with both restaurant and courier partners.
Q: Are there also home bakers working on the platform?
A: We do have a number of home bakers. We recently featured a home baker named ‘Kattoo Mittoo Achcharu’. She was one of the home bakers who was an early starter on the platform. Just last year, she opened up an actual outlet after starting off as a home baker. That is just one of the success stories, but it’s been inspiring to see a number of these home bakers actually expanding their business and opening up new outlets and opening themselves up to opportunities that did not exist previously. That is also something that we are extremely proud of.
Pix by Upul Abayasekara