onsdag 28. august 2019

China’s Delivery Drivers Rage Against the Algorithm

The scene has become omnipresent across China. Young men in blue and yellow uniforms sprint between high rises carrying plastic bags of food, frantically searching for directions on their phones, racing back to their motorcycles and speeding off to beat the clock in reaching their next destination. They are China’s food delivery drivers, foot soldiers for a booming industry that has rapidly changed how the country dines.

“I have five minutes,” grunted one breathless driver for the delivery giant Ele.me during a Saturday evening rush of orders in the city of Guiyang, “to drive three kilometers.”

Ele.me and fellow mobile food titan Meituan have conquered a Chinese food delivery market that has ballooned into a $37 billion industry. Like United States–based UberEats and Grubhub, the apps offer on-demand delivery from restaurants to doorsteps. It’s a convenience wildly popular with China’s growing consumer class; more than 400 million people, or over one-quarter of the country’s population, use online ordering software.