A truck delivery service for cooking gas. Image Credit: XPRESS

Dubai: Is the convenience of home delivery making us lazy and, perhaps, contributing to our bulging waistlines?

As a thriving industry, home delivery has few parallels in Dubai. But the over-dependence on the service could be causing us more harm than we know.

Not just groceries and fast food, in Dubai you get even pets and massage services delivered to your doorsteps. The culture is so deeply ingrained that many residents can’t imagine life without it.

“My husband wanted us to move from Bur Dubai to a new locality and the first thing I asked him was if it has a good home delivery system in place,” said Indian housewife Shweta, 35, who makes around 10-15 phone calls for home-delivery every day. “It saves time plus it’s free,” she said.

A British executive who lives in Al Barsha said he has got so accustomed to home-delivery that he finds it difficult to do without it back home. “If I were to call a store in the UK and ask them to send me a pack of cigarettes, they’d think I am crazy. But here I order them all the time,” he said.

“When we call our grocer,” said Mohammad Faisal, 40, a father of two and resident of Sharjah, “we also ask him to pick up bread from the next-door Pathan bakery. He has no problems doing the extra job. We call him five to six times daily, and many times I have called him for just for a soft drink can.”

Ahmad Kutty, 28, from the Indian state of Kerala, is the face that hundreds of Bur Dubai residents link with commodities necessary for their daily sustenance.

Kutty makes over 50 home deliveries in a day for which he gets paid Dh1,000 a month. “Sometimes a customer calls for something, then calls again for something else a few hours later,” said Kutty.

Ahmad Khair Mehmet, 24, from Iran, knows every nook and cranny of his slice of Al Ghusais. Like Kutty, Mehmet is a permanent fixture in an Al Twar baqala (Arabic for grocery).

“I make nearly 70 deliveries each day. Some customers are so forgetful they ask me to deliver several times to the same flat in one day,” he said, adding he sometimes gets a tip of a few dirhams. But those occasions are “rare”.

“People are sometimes just too lazy. But how can I complain?”

This army of home delivery staff literally panders to customers’ every beck and call, they are the glue that holds homes and shops together.

Raju Gidwani, General Manager of Shankar Trading Co, a fast-moving consumer goods distribution company based in Dubai, reckons that home delivery is a predominantly middle class phenomenon. “It mostly happens in B and C crowd,” said Gidwani. He noted, however, that nowhere else in the world is this practice more pronounced than in Dubai or the UAE in general.

“Every grocer or shop here is expected to provide home delivery. When you have a party at home and run out of cold drinks, you don’t drive to a convenience store – just ring up your grocer. It’s a form of pampering.”

The glue works in other turfs, too, beyond social classes. Now, even pets – with prices upwards of Dh6,000 – can be delivered anywhere in the UAE. Bookworms, too, can have books delivered out of the 8,000-title collection of Reader’s Paradise, a for-subscription library, at zero cost.

Packed food dropped to customers’ doorsteps is also a growing business. From just 30 customers and one delivery van in 2007, Al Quoz-based HealthFactory has fed over 4,000 people, with up to 450 regular customers – a 15-fold increase in five years.

Dr Archana Ainapure, senior dietician of HealthFactory, said: “Our challenge is to deliver customised healthy food in the safest and shortest time possible. It’s mass customisation and delivery is part of the deal.”

However, even as many of us give in to the lure of home delivery service, Dr Raymond H. Hamden, psychologist at the Dubai-based Human Relations Institute, sounds a warning.

“There is a problem when people rely solely on home delivery because they tend to lose the initiative and the ability to sustain human contact. Today, we see young people who are lacking in the development of social skills compared to generations before them, who didn’t have the convenience of electronics and home delivery,” he said.