Anjalli Kumar | November 20, 2023 | 5 min read
The business benefits of having more women working in warehouses and dark stores

We want to make Zomato a place that provides equitable access to opportunities for all genders. We want to be a sustainable company that the nation, and equally importantly, our parents will be proud of, in how we help in creating a better society. As part of this effort, we have been introducing more women workers into different parts of our business, so our efforts at creating meaningful opportunities for women do not stop within the confines of our offices.

We have already onboarded over 2,000 women delivery partners into our food delivery fleet and will continue to work hard to multiply that number. Another crucial area where we see opportunity to create roles for women is in our warehouses and dark stores, housed within our Hyperpure and Blinkit businesses. Here are some learnings as we start introducing women workers into supply chain jobs at these facilities – 

What we’re learning about gender diversity in our warehouses and dark stores

Both the Blinkit and Hyperpure businesses rely on workers in roles such as loading, unloading, picking, sorting, grading, security and housekeeping. However, the proportion of women across our warehouse and dark store facilities is currently low (<5%). 

We initiated a pilot at two of our Delhi and Mumbai warehouses and a dark store in Delhi to learn about the impact of having more women on the shopfloor, the targets we could feasibly set and investments required to make the warehouse/store environment more conducive for women. 

We onboarded 46 women in total – about 15% of the warehouse day shift workforce and 40% of the dark store workforce – and here are some business benefits we experienced in 2 months –  

Women improved the metrics around handling products within stores and warehouses

We witnessed that women workers were much more careful with respect to handling perishable categories of products like eggs, fruits and vegetables. In both warehouse locations, complaints raised against orders handled by women were ~16% less than men1. Warehouse managers also highlighted that women workers paid great attention to detail and set high-quality standards for sorting and grading, especially for fresh produce.

Women take fewer unplanned leaves

In dark stores, women took less than half the unplanned leaves than men took2. Unplanned leaves affect existing distribution of tasks among workers and hampers store productivity.

Women have lower attrition rates than men

In locations that were accessible by public transport, it was observed that no woman left within the first 15 days of joining3. This could be as much behavioural as a reflection on the availability of opportunities.

Women demonstrate higher productivity across a variety of roles 

In a business that runs on hyper efficient operations, time is money. In our dark store pilot, women took ~ 28% less time than men to process orders as a result of being faster at responding, picking and billing4. In warehouses, when women were engaged in a variety of tasks, instead of being confined to working in a specific section, they demonstrated productivity gains in the range of 5-11% in tasks like sorting and grading.

Women significantly impact the working environment, positively

Managers across all pilot locations pointed out that the culture of the facility improved post deployment of women. These cultural improvements included improved language at the facility, fewer altercations, and higher levels of cleanliness and hygiene.

“Women keep their working environment clean and hygienic.”

  • Warehouse Manager, Mumbai

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“Since the time I started working here, I have grown as a leader. I like helping out the other women here and together we have made a community where we can help and inspire each other.”

  • Hina, 30 years, mother of a 10-year old who works as a picker in our Delhi facility

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Challenges we are focusing on overcoming

Planning for and maintaining additional female washrooms 

Provisioning for additional washrooms for women is less of an issue in our warehouses as they have a lot more space for amenities. For smaller facilities, such as dark stores, we have begun planning for these in advance to enable onboarding of women. 

Providing dedicated transport to encourage better women’s participation in roles outside city centres

We have begun providing transport for women for select warehouses in outskirts of the city and have found onboarding to be much easier. In one location, we were able to onboard 75% more women than we were before. Provision of transportation also significantly improves the perceived safety associated with the opportunity.

Ideally, women need someone of their own gender to approach for support at workplace

Several women workers face challenges with expressing their desire to work and explaining their work to their families. This is in line with larger studies published by our workforce diversity programme partners FSG GLOW, that show, while 1 in 2 women wish to work, 84% women need to secure family’s permission beforehand and most families prefer women don’t work at all. 

During our pilot, a female packer and Master’s student in Delhi, who was uncomfortable telling her family she was also working, preferred to say she was going out to study. When the course she was enrolled in ended, she had to leave. 

To address this cultural reality, we’re ensuring that HR managers, management team and executives at warehouses include a mix of men and women. We believe women workers will find it easier to approach women managers for support and guidance, before they are forced to leave due to family pressure or other concerns.

Inclusion training for managers and workers beyond mandatory POSH training

While FSG’s research shows that women are willing to work in male-dominated environments, the on ground imbalance requires regular reinforcement of the fact that warehouses provide a safe and inclusive working environment where women’s voices are also respected. We are planning inclusion programmes, beyond mandatory training, at both manager and worker levels addressing common biases and behaviours that can come in the way of our objectives. 

The way forward

The pilot has helped address key questions for us – the impact of having more women working in our facilities and the hard and soft infrastructure elements we need to invest in to facilitate their onboarding. The results show that women demonstrate the ability to perform many warehouse/store tasks at par or better than men. The key investments that need to be made – provisioning for and maintaining hygienic washroom facilities, providing transport for selected locations and inclusion training for managers can, potentially, be recovered over time.

We aim to reach a target of 20% women in our warehousing operations in 2024. We believe our commitment to get this agenda right, coupled with India’s vast pool of inspiring women, like Hina, will help us meet our goals, like many of our orders, before time.

We are committed to ensuring we have more women at the table, shaping the future of every business we are in today – online ordering, food and grocery deliveries, and ideating for those we will be in tomorrow. 

Stay tuned for more diversity dialogues from Zomato.

  1. Data valid for complaints in April – May 2023 ↩︎
  2. Data valid for 31st May 2023 – 6th August 2023. ↩︎
  3. Data represents all workers who joined between 1st April 2023 and 15th May 2023. ↩︎
  4. This includes assign to start time – billing time. ↩︎
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