Around the world, online merchants are keen to close the so-called last mile as they compete to deliver packages in a day or less.

Abdul Saleem heaves a 55-pound bag crammed with foot massagers, jeans, kitchen tools and sports shoes onto his shoulders. It’s late October, just days before the annual shopping frenzy that coincides with the Diwali festival of lights. As he does every morning six days a week, Saleem straps on a helmet, straddles his Honda scooter and accelerates onto Bangalore’s gridlocked streets.

Saleem delivers packages for Flipkart Online Services Pvt, India’s largest and most valuable e-commerce company. He and thousands of fellow deliverymen are foot soldiers in a hard-fought battle pitting Flipkart against domestic rival Snapdeal.com and U.S. leviathan Amazon.com Inc., all tussling for dominance in a market that Morgan Stanley expects to explode more than ten-fold to $137 billion by 2020 from $11 billion in 2013. Flipkart is clinging to a narrow lead as Amazon pours billions of dollars into India.

Around the world, online merchants are keen to close the so-called last mile as they compete to deliver packages in a day or less. In the U.S. and other developed markets, purchases are typically delivered by truck, and there’s talk of using drones to get the job done. In the chaotic cities of India and other emerging markets, companies do whatever it takes to get packages to customer-by foot, bicycle, even boat.

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