Uma Devi was in the middle of an order delivery when she declined my interview call and immediately sent a WhatsApp voice note requesting a call back at 10pm when her shift ends. Six days a week, for 10 hours a day, she delivers food for Zomato. The job helps her pay bills, her son’s school fee “and live a dignified life,” she says confidently.
But riding 300km a day for ₹4,000 a week wasn’t enough to pay for her son’s college and cricket coaching fees. “Until yesterday I had no idea from where I was going to arrange ₹28,000 for his fees but by god’s grace everything has been taken care of. And this, thanks to R K Raaja, the CEO of chapattikings.com, who shared my story on social media.”
I have had zero cancellation or complaints of late delivery and not once have I spilled any food.
Her story took the internet by storm after Raaja posted on LinkedIn about his meeting with “a real-life hero. She came to my kitchen to pick up an order and I remarked that being so young she shouldn’t be tired to climb the stairs to the first floor.” The two began talking and when “I learned about how hard she is working to make her son’s life better without worrying about the struggle, and sleeping as little as five hours, I was taken aback,” he says. Within minutes of his post, the son’s college enrolment fee was collected!
On the choice of becoming a Zomato delivery person, Uma says, “I could only study up to Class 3 because of my family’s financial situation and when I lost my husband ten years ago my life was thrown off balance. What jobs could I apply for?” Luckily her husband had taught her to ride a two-wheeler and the job description said “anyone who has a bike can apply. So I applied for it”.
Soon after her husband’s death she got a taste of life’s grim reality when as a young widow “I asked for financial assistance from a close relative, and he demanded a physical favour in return… if you know what I mean,” she says. Uma wasn’t able to get a job and the responsibility of paying house rent and school fees loomed before her. “I was willing to struggle and do what it takes to provide for my son but I wasn’t going to compromise on my self-respect and dignity,” she adds.
Her first job was collecting cash for a battery dealer for a salary of ₹7,000 a month. She remained in that job for close to 10 years and moved to Zomato about two years ago “for a better pay so that I could help my son get into a good college,” she says. The new job not just offered her better pay but also recognition. Uma is a diamond star employee of Zomato. She explains humbly “I have had zero cancellation or complaints of late delivery and not once have I spilled any food.”
They have called me ‘Lady Zomato,’ clapped for me, taken selfies, and expressed how proud they feel that a woman has delivered their food.
People have looked at her in surprise, shock and in awe, she says, and in many instances “they have called me ‘Lady Zomato,’ clapped for me, taken selfies, and expressed how proud they feel that a woman has delivered their food.” But her best moment on the job was when she stopped at a traffic signal and a few young men on bikes saluted me. I was so happy and proud,” she smiles.
As far as Chennai is concerned she says “working women are respected and treated well at the same time; if we behave in a dignified way nothing can go wrong.” So does she feel exhausted by the end of the day? “Of course I do but compared to my duties as a mother, I feel the commuting is not a problem. I make sure I get five hours of sleep every day and do my job with dedication. I want my son to be proud of me.”