Amazon India's strategy of partnering with neighbourhood mom and pop shops for last mile delivery through its 'I Have Space' (IHS) programme is well known. The local store owners use additional space in their stores to stock Amazon orders, which they go and deliver to addresses in and around their stores. The store owner on an average ends up earning an additional Rs 15,000-20,000 per month by letting Amazon use it space. The ecommerce platform has close to 23,000 such partners across the country. The American retail giant is now using IHS to get more women to be part of its delivery and logistics network.
Bangalore-based, Usha M, is one such women entrepreneur who the ecommerce retailer has on-boarded. Usha runs a stationary shop in the Srirampura locality of the Indian IT hub. She delivers nothing less than 40 packets a day and earns an additional Rs 20,000-Rs 22,000 a month, which she says, comes in handy for her son's education. Similarly, Jamuna Rani, owner of Sarini Associates, runs Amazon India's women-only delivery station in Chennai. She has over 10 women working under her who deliver 800-900 packages every day around a 2-3 kilometre radius of Ramapuram in Chennai.
Swati Rustagi, Director (Human Resources), Amazon India Operations, says, "The idea is to innovate to get more women into the workforce, how to make the workforce more attractive and inclusive." Rustagi claims that her team at Amazon has been continuously working with communities in and around its fulfilment centres. "We have set up community centres at each of our big locations and through the community centres we do a lot of work on empowering women through education, we are also teaching them skills so that they can earn a livelihood. Some of them have started working with us as suppliers or sellers and set up their own businesses like stitching bags for packaging. We are trying to get women feel that they have a place in the society which is beyond their home," she says.
Apart from getting women to be part of the delivery team, Amazon India's Rustagi says that the company is also trying to bring in diversity even in its male-dominated fulfilment centres. She says that in the last couple of years around 6,000 women have started working as associates at Amazon's fulfilment centres across the country. "We identified women associates in villages, trained them, sensitised them and sensitized the male workers towards women. We have women in packing roles, in the store, there is also a forklift officer." There were barely 60 women working at its fulfilment centres three years ago.
With the logistics sector traditionally being a male bastion, Rustagi claims that she and her team had to continuously work with the village communities to change mindsets. With bulk of fulfilment centres located in remote areas there was a natural aversion among women to work there. "We made sure we have representation of women in every shift even in the HR team so that our women associates can freely express their mind. They usually feel uncomfortable to walk up to a male HR person and communicate. We even focus on their well-being and health."
The Amazon workforce especially in North America has as many women as men, and the company's agenda in India is to bring in as much inclusivity as possible. "We want various sections of the society to be represented in the workplace, which includes women as well as persons with disabilities," says Rustagi. With the number of women associates increasing by the day, she says that the efficiency and productivity levels have also increased. "We have better attendance and lesser attrition rates," added Rustagi.