In a major relief to consumers, e-commerce companies such as Amazon, Flipkart and local retailers, might soon be allowed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to sell secondary essentials in red zone areas across the country, except high virus load districts and containment zones, according to industry sources. If allowed, these firms would be allowed to sell secondary-essential items such as phones, laptops, electronic devices and appliances, which comprise most of their sales. Even for high virus load districts and containment zones, the government is evaluating to expand the list of essentials which might now include products such as coolers, air conditioners, mobile phones and laptops.
“The announcement might come soon. For many weeks e-commerce companies, retailers, as well as consumer-focused platforms, have been informing the government about the hardships consumers are facing in red zones and the important role they can play to deliver secondary essentials,” said an industry executive, who wished to remain anonymous.
The home ministry, which recently extended the national lockdown, allowed the online sales of essential and secondary-essential products in green and orange zones that have almost contained the coronavirus outbreak, and only essentials in red zones. However, red zones comprise about 130 districts of the country and analysts estimate that the e-commerce companies, as well as the retailers, witness at least 75 per cent demand from these locations.
A majority of the consumers in red zones say they want to buy gadgets, home supplies and office and school supplies after the upcoming lockdown relaxations. About 42 per cent of these consumers now want to get things delivered instead of buying from markets, according to a survey by community platform LocalCircles, which received over 24,000 votes from consumers spread across 124 red zone districts of the country. Post the lockdown relaxation, when it comes to services, people will spend mostly on air conditioners, refrigerators, appliance and home repairs.
About 74 per cent consumers said they are in no mood to spend on non- essentials post lockdown.
Along with how people work, Covid-19 pandemic is also changing the way how people buy things. Many dedicated market-goers are now shifting to purchases delivered at the doorstep to minimize outdoor activities and contact with other people due to the fear of contracting the virus. Whether it is a malfunctioning laptop, a broken mobile phone, the empty printer cartridge or stationery for children, consumers have been restlessly waiting for the lockdown to get over to buy stuff that is important for their daily routine, but these products have not been termed as essential by the government, said the LocalCircles survey.
“Consumers have regularly been expressing on LocalCircles that the government permits the purchase and delivery of items like laptops, printers, coolers, air conditioners via retailers and e-commerce platforms and LocalCircles has sensitised the government about the same," said Sachin Taparia, founder and chairman of LocalCircles.
About 33 per cent consumers in red zones said that after the lockdown is lifted they will order via e-commerce, while 41 per cent said they will visit a retail store. About 9 per cent said they will get stuff delivered from a retail store. Overall, the numbers in this survey show a big shift in the consumer mindset post Covid-19 lockdown, as 42 per cent now want to get items of need delivered to their doorsteps so that they could follow the social distancing protocols.
According to online retail-focused technology platform Unicommerce, the overall e-commerce sector showed a good sign of recovery in the first week of lockdown 3.0 and made up for the steep decline of 40 days due to lockdown. The overall industry has reached 30 per cent of its pre-lockdown order volumes which is a good sign for the industry. With e-commerce players being permitted to resume operations in the green and orange zones, the business will continue to take a major hit as over 40 per cent of the e-tailers are based in metropolitan cities which are currently in the red zone, said Unicommerce report.