I’m a copywriter and lately, I’ve been writing a little too many articles about how every industry has made its business imperative, ‘Put people first’, their words, not mine.
While I do understand how they are going big on improving customer experience, are they really making any effort (however small) to put people over profit?
For the last three days, most of Kolkata was submerged under knee-deep water. Around late afternoon, I received a phone call. There was some scheduled delivery and the man on the other end said, “I’ve been working since morning and I’m completely drenched. Can I please deliver your parcel tomorrow?”
I, for one, instantly agreed and there might be many others who would do, too. What baffles me is something else: why are these delivery companies putting their employees at risk? What book of corporate professionalism and work ethics makes it mandatory for the workforce to turn up on days when we, as a state, are battling against an extreme situation or a crisis?
The answer is a simple one: the gap between the have and the have-nots. For people who can barely make ends meet, losing even a day’s salary is a calamity larger than any impending cyclone or for that matter, their lives.
A single message, ‘Your parcel is delayed because of the weather’ could have been sufficient even for the most disappointed individual (Mind you, this wasn’t delivery of essentials in a pandemic – hence, the concern to have it delivered ‘on time’ does not hold water).
With every other street of Kolkata submerged, these delivery professionals had to wade through knee-deep water to get to their delivery location. Why are we not talking about the hazards this poses to their lives? As most of us were cocooned in the safety of our homes, sitting on our couches, there were people going on their day jobs — of not saving lives and getting honoured for it —to earn a day’s salary to put food on the plate.
I’m a copywriter and I understand the business imperative of selling – but at what cost?
It wasn’t too long ago when a global pizza chain came under intense scrutiny for their post that hero-worshipped a delivery executive who was forced to deliver pizza in knee-deep water. Following the backlash, the pizza chain took down the picture of their delivery executive. But this points to a bigger problem at heart.
If companies are all about putting people first, why do they intentionally forget to put their own people first?
As Cyclone Yaas ravaged through parts of Bengal and residents from coastal areas were evacuated to safety, why did renowned news channels from the state coerced their correspondents and camera staff to live-report from areas that were expected to feel the brunt of the storm?
Social media erupted in enrage and these news channels came under fire for risking the lives of their correspondents. But how much of it is really going to change? Risking the lives of essential workers is a phenomenon that happens one too often, especially in India – and the second wave of Covid-19 stands as an ugly reminder.
The number of doctors and frontline workers we have lost to the virus is unprecedented. Official figures don’t reflect personal agony, and hardly do we speak about the plight and death of sanitation workers and mortuary workers due to Covid-19. Though that might be a topic for another discussion, to what extent have we normalised human apathy and insensitivity that it does not bother corporations to risk the lives of their employees even on days we are battling against a natural calamity or a pandemic?
As for my parcel, I received it before my clock hit 10am the next morning – and I was surprised at how these people do it. At the risk of sounding extremely patronising, I’ve nothing but respect for that man.
However, let’s not normalise this under the garb of professionalism, work ethics or other standards of capitalism. At the heart of every corporation, every company and every community lies its people. I don’t know how we will bring about a change in our or the companies’ mentality, but I suggest we come together and bring the change.
I’m a copywriter and I know for a fact, companies keep executing transformation and reinventing their core processes every now and then (whenever their market tells them to). We’re the market, so let us keep this conversation going, let us not stop till we have found our answers.