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A tale of unlikely brotherhood

A mutually supportive network of bikers, merchants and consumers keeps this delivery rider going

A tale of unlikely brotherhood

Mr Sarifee delivers mostly in the Bukit Merah area, and is out on the roads until 5pm or 6pm. Photos: Mediacorp

You may have met Mr Sarifee Josle in person before, even if you didn’t quite realise it.

The father of five joined Grab as a delivery rider in 2018 because he needed flexible work hours to care for his family, but leaving his four-year job as a supervisor in a moving company wasn’t easy.

“My wife was also skeptical at first. She asked: ‘Why do you want to quit your full-time job?’” he admitted.

Without the perceived safety net of fixed earnings, even Mr Sarifee was hesitant, but he eventually chose autonomy and a flexible schedule because that would allow him to better care for his youngest twin daughters who face developmental delays. Apart from sending them to childcare, he also sends the girls for hearing and speech therapy classes.

Mr Sarifee's job as a Grab delivery rider gives him the flexibility to play a bigger role in his children's lives.

While he has faced several obstacles as a Grab delivery rider – like fickle weather, tricky terrain and the occasional rude consumer – he’s found good reasons to continue, even three years on.

And key to this is his flexible routine and a supportive network of fellow delivery riders, many of whom became close friends.

BROTHERHOOD ON BIKES

Mr Sarifee's morning routine includes breakfast with his wife.

Mr Sarifee and his wife start their day at 7am. They wake their children, including their six-year-old twins. After some light preparation, the couple sends the twins to the childcare centre a few blocks away.

Mr Sarifee starts his shift between 8am and 9am, but makes it a point to enjoy breakfast with his wife at their usual spot – a nearby coffeeshop. Then he logs into his Grab app and begins his rounds. He chooses to deliver mostly in the downtown Bukit Merah area, and will ply the roads until about 5pm or 6pm in the evening.

The Grab app is easy to use, he said. “The more time you spend on the roads making deliveries and in the right areas, the more you earn.”

As with any job however, there was an initial learning curve.

“For the first two or three months, I was not earning much. As I was riding the bike on the road in hot weather, I would go home whenever I felt tired,” he recalled. He added that he used to be too shy to ask for directions if he got lost.

As with any job, having good support network of helpful colleagues can make a big difference during the course of a day's work.

But the rider has since become more disciplined and has built up a support network of riders, including Mr Norman Musa and Mr Zulmawin Bin Mohamed. After completing their lunchtime deliveries at around 3pm everyday, the three of them meet a few other riders to have their own lunch.

This brotherhood of riders offers mutual support to each other and is an informal but crucial element of the job. It can make a big difference to riders and even consumers.

If he or any of his fellow riders are unable to locate a restaurant, they call one another to ask for directions. According to Mr Sarifee, the riders live by the creed: “Don’t be shy to ask for help, we’re family.”

Mr Sarifee recalls one occasion when his motorcycle broke down while he was en route to deliver an order. Mr Norman gave him a lift so he could deliver the order. Mr Sarifee only returned later to collect his motorcycle as his priority was making sure the food was delivered to his customer.

Seasoned riders like Mr Sarifee take a lot of pride in their job – they don’t just grab and go. After all, delivering food and drinks on time is pointless if the items spill in transit, so they make it a point to check that they are packaged properly.

“Riders who are new to the job may struggle slightly at first,” shared Mr Sarifee. “They may not tie drinks properly. The restaurant will put the drinks in a plastic bag and some riders will just take it and go. 

"Some drinks are packed loosely and may spill by the time they reach the consumer, if we don’t tie the drinks properly.” So the next time your orders arrive perfectly, you have their expert handling to thank.

Before setting off on a delivery, Mr Sarifee ties the food packets securely to reduce the risk of spillage.

A SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY BOUND BY FOOD

One heartening thing Mr Sarifee has noticed in the past year, is an increasing number of delivery orders from hawker centres. He was relieved to see more hawkers going digital and not being left behind.

“When circuit breaker first started, I was quite worried for the hawkers, especially the older ones. But I am glad to see the GrabFood app can help them, especially with mix and match.”

He sees at least one delivery order a day from Redhill Food Centre, and these orders typically comprise orders from different stalls – usually a main meal and a drink. “Hong Seng Curry Rice is one of the more popular stalls, most of my deliveries include orders from there. They used to have long queues during lunch, now they still have a queue and more delivery orders. And consumers will add on a drink to the order too.”

Even with the challenges, the seasoned rider appreciates the displays of kindness he has experienced from merchants and his customers over the years.

During last year’s fasting month for instance, a Muslim consumer offered him a drink and a bun to eat while breaking fast. Such acts of kindness are not isolated.  From consumers who leave him hand sanitisers and encouraging notes, to a kind stall owner who fed him kueh when he had to wait for her food, Mr Sarifee feels deeply appreciated.

Other riders have similar tales to tell, so it’s no surprise that when Grab organised several of its GrabforGood initiatives, many riders did not hesitate to help.

In one instance, Grab partnered with Food from the Heart and Care Corner Family Service Centre to provide last-mile delivery to residential beneficiaries. Mr Sarifee and Mr Norman were among 50 GrabFood delivery-partners who delivered food to about 70 people. The food, packaged by Food from the Heart, was delivered to residents at the Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society and Care Corner Family Service Centre (Tampines).

Mr Sarifee said he was inspired by his wife, who often does volunteer work despite her busy schedule.

MORE THAN WORTH IT

Clearly someone who cherishes his wife and five children, Mr Sarifee remembers the long overtime hours he had to put in at his previous job. “When I came back, everyone was already asleep. Now I'm back at about 6pm. After I pick up my twins, I can even have dinner with everyone at home.”

But ultimately, it is Grab’s ability to offer him flexible working hours that has kept him going. “In case my twins have an issue at school or have to go for a check-up, I can just go offline,” he said.

The job has empowered him to make time for his family’s needs while also building a new and diverse work family – consisting of fellow riders, consumers and stall owners. “I am happy that Grab has helped riders and merchants during this time. With the platform, I now also have a way of giving back to the community with my friends.” 

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