At a time when people prefer to stay indoors in order to minimise the spread of coronavirus, Bigbasket, India’s largest online grocery firm, is seeing a huge surge in demand. This has put pressure on its bandwidth
Has the ongoing crisis affected your supply network and operations?
It has been affected. Obviously, we are seeing massive surge in orders. The number of daily orders has kind of doubled in the past few days when compared with a normal period. We are doing much better in managing those, but it is really putting severe strain on our system and people. I must say hats up to my people who are standing by us in such difficult times.
A lot of them, including our delivery associates, understand that it (to continue to provide) services is a national call. In fact, lot of them got cheered when they went out to deliver goods on Sunday evening.
Is it putting any strain on your supply side?
Our supply side is running smoothly. The problem is, we are getting huge number of orders that is much beyond what we can handle with our current capacity, which basically includes people, vans and storage (warehousing). So, since orders keep piling, (delivery) slots are closing faster. That means, sometimes the same order, which could earlier be delivered on the same day or next day, is sometimes taking two or three days to be delivered. Besides, most of our suppliers are working with us very closely. They realise the business is moving online and, thus, they are supporting us a lot more.
Are you engaging extra people or temporary workers to manage the surge in demand?
We are not able to get as many people we would need to basically to be able to service the orders of this magnitude. But, the beauty is, the capacity is controlled by us. So, based on the number of people and the delivery vans that are available with us every day, we set the capacity for that day. Any order that comes beyond that capacity, keep moving to be delivered next day or day after. So, we are actually able to control the capacity. Customers are also appreciative. We are delivering all the stuff. It would have become a bigger issue if you delivered late and delivered just half the things that were ordered.
How is the clampdown by the states affecting you?
Though the Centre had issued some clear guidelines, the execution at the state level was really bad (on Sunday). Many of our vans and people were stopped by the police, and some even got beaten up. It happened in certain pockets of UP, Mumbai, Chennai, and even Karnataka. There was a complete lack of coordination between the Centre and the states. We are talking to each of them and making sure that they get better. They are also realizing this. So, in that way, the government has been very supportive.
How are you managing the inventory now?
We used to have an inventory of 12 days. But that is coming down now, as things are depleting quite fast. Also, lots of our big suppliers are, in fact, supplying daily instead of once in two or three days they used to do earlier. And, when they supply daily, your stock holding also comes down.
What are the employee safety measures you have put in place?
While we know, we will have to continue to do our work in this difficult time, it also puts a lot of responsibility on us to make sure everybody is safe, including our employees. We have recently launched contactless delivery, which is good for the safety of both for our delivery agents as well as customers.
Are you all working from home?
Yes. In fact, even though our head office where around 500 people work is not locked down completely, almost all of us are working from home. All the physical touch points, including warehouses and godowns, are, however, open.