E-commerce companies such as Flipkart, Paytm and Snapdeal are betting big on technology to deliver essential and non-essential products to customers in green and orange zones that have almost controlled the coronavirus outbreak. They are tweaking their technology platforms to address such a challenge and adapt to the changing conditions. The firms are witnessing a surge in demand after the home ministry last week extended a national lockdown but allowed the online sales of essential and non-essential products in green and orange zones and only essentials in red zones.
At the e-commerce giant Flipkart, the teams first prioritised the areas and regions as per essential delivery guidelines by the government and then scaled it across cities. In the past few days, as areas got marked into red, orange and green zones, Flipkart said it further leveraged its technology capabilities to quickly make the required changes to align with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and state directives and coordinate with the seller partners across the country.
“For our technology teams, it has always been about collaborating across functions and forming crack teams to solve problems,” said Flipkart. “The last few weeks have also added an element of greater speed, agility and dedication while we have worked remotely to keep pace with external developments.”
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The Walmart-owned firm said its industry-first network design that leverages technology to smartly locate warehouses, sortation centres and delivery hubs have helped it maximise speed and selection. Also, its machine learning models that identify and mark addresses in regions, is enabling it to re-plan shipments based on dynamic external changes. This has immensely helped the firm during this time.
Gurugram-based e-commerce company Snapdeal said its products are tagged as essentials and non-essentials as per government guidelines. The same tagging runs throughout the entire system. “Over the weekend, our engineering team has added further input fields to allow non-essentials to be processed for orange and green zones- this is done basis pin codes mapped to various districts in the country,” said Snapdeal.
Snapdeal’s process in use is a mix of the automated processes and a range of manual inputs. These are essential because of the dynamic nature of insights coming from various authorities - both central and state and also district wise. The firm also factors in a range of ground-level operating conditions that it receives from the delivery partners so that it can project the correct delivery periods for users ordering on the platform. Most of the updates happen in real-time through Snapdeal's private cloud, Snapdeal Cirrus.
Snapdeal’s process of marking green, orange and red zones starts from monitoring and updating government advisories. Depending on these verified inputs, the technology team updates the availability of products based on pin codes. For instance, while users across the country will be able to see the entire assortment, users in red zones will not be able to order a non-essential product, while a user in an orange or a green zone will be able to. To illustrate, today a buyer in Gurugram can order a T-shirt, but a buyer in Delhi cannot. As soon as the user adds or revises her pin code, the availability of products or the timelines for delivery get updated accordingly. Snapdeal’s product and engineering team are connected seamlessly to the office through virtual private network links, to keep updating the processes and decision-making protocols as per emerging business requirements.
“The product and engineering teams have been hard at work. It is a high-intensity and fast-moving task that our teams are adept at,” said Snapdeal.
Noida-based e-commerce firm Paytm Mall said it has received orders from most of the green and orange zones in the country. Consumer electronics, laptops, mobile phones, home, and fashion are a few of the categories that are doing extremely well for Paytm Mall.
"The consumer response to the government's decision to allow delivery of non-essentials has been overwhelming,” said Srinivas Mothey, senior vice president, Paytm Mall. “People are ordering the most for work and study from home essentials. Depending on the type of product we are offering delivery timelines between two to five days."
E-commerce company Amazon said it is accepting orders as allowed by the MHA directive and respective State government guidelines. Its customers in orange and green zones are buying other priority products that they needed the most. It is seeing a demand for various kinds of smart devices and products related to electrical appliances, clothes and work from home enablers in the orange and green zone.
“Thousands of sellers have started receiving orders for the first time since the lockdown began in March and we are hopeful that this will help jumpstart the livelihood of many small sellers and their workforce,” said Amazon.
The Jeff Bezos-led company urged the government to allow an expanded list of priority products in the red zone as well. It said this will not only revive economic activity and serve urgent needs but will also ensure citizen safety in a high-risk area.