Shortly after PM Narendra Modi called for a nationwide lockdown for 21 days, he advised people against panic buying. But those words fell on deaf ears as people rushed to stock groceries, gathered in crowds in supermarkets and grocery shops, defeating the whole purpose of social distancing. But those who thought e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart and others could come in handy during the lockdown, they were met with a bigger shock.
Amazon, Flipkart, BigBasket, Grofers, Reliance Digital, Tata Cliq, Doodhwala and other e-commerce platforms have also taken a hit due to the coronavirus lockdown. At a time when people are more likely to order from online services, this isn't a good sign to keep people indoors. People might be forced to step out if e-commerce services are not resumed. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has urged various state governments to allow e-commerce deliveries.
On Tuesday, Amazon.in said it discontinued accepting orders for lower-priority" products in India so it can focus on delivering essential items such as household staples, health care items and personal safety products (even though masks and sanitizers are still out of stock).
To serve our customers' most urgent needs while also ensuring safety of our employees, we are temporarily prioritizing our available fulfilment and logistics capacity to serve products that are currently critical for our customers such as household staples, packaged food, health care, hygiene, personal safety and other high priority products," Amazon said in a statement.
Flipkart suspends deliveries
Unlike Amazon's considerate move, Flipkart suspended all new orders. The nationwide lockdown has raised concerns over the safety of its delivery execs and the e-commerce giant is seeking local authorities support to resume operations.
Flipkart has temporarily suspended orders as we assess the possibilities of operating in the lockdown. We are prioritising the safety of our delivery executives and seeking the support of the local governments and police authorities to meet the needs of our customers as they stay home during this lockdown," Rajneesh Kumar, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Flipkart, said in a statement, according to TechCrunch.
Other key players on lockdown
The Indian e-commerce industry is not limited to Amazon and Flipkart as there are several smaller players who play an important role in the industry. With a complete lockdown in effect till April 21, police officials are taking extreme measures to ensure people are following the curfew. In doing so, the cops are also sending back those who are delivering online orders of essential items.
Albinder Dhindsa, co-founder and chief executive of Grofers, said that its warehouses in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune, Delhi NCR have been forcefully shut down and delivery partners from local stores are being turned back.
BigBasket also shared similar concern over the deliveries amid lockdown. "We regret the inconvenience caused, we are not operational due to restrictions imposed by local authorities on movement of goods in spite of clear guidelines provided by central authorities to enable essential services. We are working with the authorities to be back soon," BigBasket said in a tweet.
Other e-commerce players Reliance Digital, Tata Cliq and Doodhwala have also suspended services amid the lockdown.
Delhi police finds a way
While the e-commerce players are struggling to find a way out of this to resume operations for essential items, Delhi Police already paved a path. The city police is handing out passes to delivery agents of e-commerce sites that can be used to ply on roads during the 21-day lockdown.
In Bengaluru, city police commissioner Bhaskar Rao, IPS, called for a meeting with stakeholders and aggregators of essential commodities in order to issue duty pass for them to move about. This is likely to be applied in other cities soon enough, helping e-commerce sites resume operations in limited capacity during the lockdown.