Motivated by enticing incentives and a user-friendly signup process, a growing number of individuals in Vietnam, known as ‘shippers’, are eagerly venturing into the realm of motorbike delivery services. This surge in interest can be attributed to the expanding opportunities provided by food and package delivery applications.

Traditionally, the physically demanding job of riding a motorbike through dense traffic and making timely deliveries over several kilometers has been primarily held by men. However, this is no longer the case today.

On a rainy morning, Tran Thi Thu Ngan parked her bike across from a bubble milk tea shop located at the intersection of Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and Mac Dinh Chi Streets in District 1. Meanwhile, she checked her phone for any new orders.

Located in the heart of a bustling neighborhood, this corner is a popular hotspot among shippers. Its proximity to beloved diners and coffee shops adds to its allure.

Ngan stood out as the sole female among a group of nearly 10 delivery workers congregated that morning.

The young woman, aged 21, departed from her hometown in the south-central province of Phu Yen and relocated to Ho Chi Minh City two years ago. She was employed as a food attendant at a restaurant until she was unfortunately laid off due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Vietnam in March.

Ngan has adapted to the escalating consumer demand during the coronavirus pandemic by transitioning into the food delivery industry, utilizing an app-based platform in order to sustain her livelihood.

She explained that she chooses food delivery for safety concerns instead of working as a motorbike taxi driver. Additionally, she mentioned that people tend to be skeptical of female drivers. She emphasized her promptness in accepting new orders without any delay.

Ngan starts her daily routine at 10:00 am by activating a delivery app that provides job opportunities for riders like her. She then positions herself on streets that are filled with various eateries and coffee shops, eagerly awaiting delivery requests.

The delivery services are limited to the inner-city areas, specifically focused on District 1 and District 3.

Ngan mentioned, “I have the option to finish work early today if I can achieve my order target. If not, I will not be able to reach home until around 9:00 or 10:00 pm.”

“The order target refers to the bonus scheme on the platform determined by the daily deliveries made by shippers. This scheme follows a tiered structure with thresholds set at 9, 11, 22, 28, and 34 deliveries per day.”

Ngan, despite her small stature, strives to complete between 22 and 28 deliveries per day. This impressive feat allows her to earn over VND400,000 ($17) daily.

“I consistently strive to meet my targets to ensure my own financial stability and provide for my younger sibling at home. It brings me great joy whenever I receive tips ranging from VND5,000-10,000 [$0.4] from clients. However, I have noticed a surge in new riders who are individuals from various industries struggling with unemployment due to the COVID-19 outbreaks in the country, which has intensified the competition among us.”

According to her, the peak periods for shippers are during midday and evening hours.

Although there are some disadvantages.

Ngan, like many other shippers, sometimes encounters disgruntled customers when she arrives late due to navigating heavy rush hour traffic or getting lost.

“I always take precautions to conceal my identity by wearing masks and jackets, ensuring that my true self remains unknown. Enduring the harsh weather conditions has posed considerable challenges for me as a woman, resulting in a significant darkening of my complexion in recent times. However, I remain hopeful that once the pandemic subsides, I will be able to secure a more stable job and establish a solid foundation for myself.”

44-year-old Le Ngoc Lan (L) picks up two glasses of bubble milk tea from a shop in Binh Thanh District before delivering them to a client in District 2 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Dieu Qui/ Tuoi Tre.

Le Ngoc Lan (L), 44, picks up two glasses of bubble milk tea from a shop in Binh Thanh District before delivering them to a client in District 2 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Dieu Qui / Tuoi Tre

Experience life as a backpacker.

Rain or shine, Le Ngoc Lan, a former market researcher from Hanoi, dedicates herself to efficiently delivering 22 orders per day to various areas of Ho Chi Minh City. She took on this job over a year ago at the age of 43 and has since shown unwavering commitment to her role.

Compared to Ngan and many of her female colleagues, Lan does not perceive the job as grueling.

“There is no reason to be ashamed of working as a shipper. I chose this profession because I enjoy the freedom of the open road, much like a backpacker does. The work schedule is also flexible, with less pressure compared to a traditional 9-5 job,” she stated.

“If you are willing to persevere and commit to the necessary tasks, this job has the potential to generate financial rewards for you.”

There are occupational health hazards that need to be considered and addressed.

Lan has reported experiencing intermittent backache, shoulder pain, and a perceived decline in physical appearance.

Unfortunately, the middle-aged woman encountered a mishap while en route to fulfill a delivery order a few months ago. As a result, she was unable to operate her vehicle for a duration of four months.

After getting back on track, she quickly resumed her work and pursued her passion for backpacking to thrive in the city.

During the rainy season, our business thrives as we continue to secure orders long after our competitors have closed for the day.

Lan said:

“In rainy weather, the number of my hourly orders almost doubles to three or four, compared to an average of two. I try to stay positive and there are times when I even enjoy it.”

Lan shared with us some heart-warming moments she has experienced while working with her clients. She mentioned that the majority of her clients have been very pleasant to work with.

“While en route to a delivery, I received a considerate text from a customer, advising me to seek shelter from the heavy rain. Upon my arrival, the customer even generously tipped me. This experience left a lasting impression.”

“I was filled with immense joy at that moment, as I felt a genuine sense of appreciation and empathy from them.”

Middle-aged “warrior”

Tran Thi Thu Ngan, 21, is spotted waiting opposite a bubble milk tea shop in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for new orders on her phone. Photo: Dieu Qui/ Tuoi Tre

Tran Thi Thu Ngan, 21, is spotted waiting opposite a bubble milk tea shop in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for new orders on her phone. Photo: Dieu Qui / Tuoi Tre

Truong Thi Hai Duong, 57, sought refuge from a heavy rainstorm at midday on Ba Trieu Street in Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.

Upon quickly devouring a piece of bread that was purchased earlier as a hasty meal, the protagonist’s phone promptly alerted her to a new order, marking it as her thirteenth order of the day.

She hastily donned her raincoat and disappeared into the bustling traffic, making her way towards a broken rice eatery located two kilometers away.

After serving her customer a plate of broken rice, she took a moment to discuss her job with them.

Duong, an experienced food delivery worker, has successfully completed a remarkable average of 20 deliveries per day. However, on rainy days in inner-city areas, his exceptional efficiency allows him to reach even higher numbers, averaging around 28-30 deliveries daily.

Many customers were pleasantly surprised to receive their food from a senior shipper, as she disclosed.

The woman shares the job not only to cover her daily expenses without relying on her grown-up children’s allowances but also as a way to cope with the grief from the death of her husband.

“After observing the presence of numerous young food delivery workers, I made the choice to give it a shot,” stated Duong. She further mentioned that her employer initially exhibited hesitation when it came to hiring her as a contractor.

To her immense joy, she received her very first order.

Unfortunately, her happiness was fleeting as she quickly became the target of a customer who failed to show up for their appointment.

During my work day, I traveled over 10 kilometers from a retailer to a customer’s residence, and attempted to contact them through 20 phone calls, all of which went unanswered. The experience left me feeling distraught to the point of tears,” she shared.

In addition to the possibility of no-shows, women also face potential risks such as traffic accidents.

Despite being fortunate to survive a car crash, she unfortunately suffered significant damage to her bicycle.

Despite the inevitable risks, Duong is determined to continue pursuing her career as long as her health allows.

The position offers me the opportunity to interact with various individuals and travel frequently. On the application, users refer to us as ‘warriors’ rather than ‘shippers’,

Every time I activate the application, I experience the exhilaration of being a true warrior.

“I am often astounded by the level of effort I am capable of exerting.”

“The job challenges me and keeps me mentally resilient and adaptable,”

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