In this photograph taken on July 11, 2014, founder of India's door-to-door pick-up and delivery service 'Get My Peon', Bharat Ahirwar, talks to his staff during a team meeting at their office in Mumbai. (AFP PHOTO / INDRANIL MUKHERJEE)
Published Sunday, July 27, 2014 8:24AM EDT
(MUMBAI-AFP) - Need someone to pay your bills and pick up your shopping, take an elderly relative to hospital or deliver 26 presents to your girlfriend on her 26th birthday?
These are just some of the requests received by Mumbai start-up "Get My Peon", one of the new Indian companies offering to do your chores and errands in a country traditionally reliant on full-time servants.
Hired help still plays a huge role in hierarchical Indian society, with those who can afford it employing maids, cooks, drivers and nannies, as well as "peons" or servants at work -- still an acceptable term in India for office boys and runners.
But some are increasingly opting to outsource their daily tasks rather than depend on in-house staff. Get My Peon, set up in 2012, now has about 800 clients on its books, from chief executives to housewives.
"People have stopped doing things the old-fashioned way. The labour costs for full-time staff are very high," said Bharat Ahirwar, the 29-year-old founder of Get My Peon, which charges 200 rupees ($3) for a one-way errand.
While India's urban middle-class is growing and looking for affordable help, new avenues are opening for poorer workers who earlier were more likely to settle as full-time, often poorly paid, servants.
Read more: India start-up outsources chores as servant culture shifts | CTV News (external - login to view)
Being Canadian born and raised, I've never had any real experience with an absolute caste system. I can easily wrap my head around outsourcing personal and domestic tasks, but don't view those who perform such tasks as being of some kind of 'lower station'. So while I can see some potential in this new direction which could give those who may have been more exploited in the past more control over their lives in terms of the work that they do, I wonder if it really does make that much of a difference, whether it's just the same thing with a different label on it. I don't know, maybe I just can't get beyond the term "peon".