Allow e-commerce entities to operate without passes in green zones: IAMAI

Industry body IAMAI has urged the government to allow e-commerce entities to operate without any requirement for passes in green zones, as well as expansion of essentials list for online businesses to help economic revival while ensuring public health amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has submitted a blueprint suggesting a road map for opening up e-commerce based on the current containment model of zoning, and requested the government to open up e-commerce services to "address the dual challenge of economic revival and address public health issues".

"The blue print will immediately impact three large groups of people: lakhs of small sellers, thousands of small manufacturers, lakhs of delivery associates, and millions of consumers," IAMAI President Subho Ray said in a statement.

"From the health and safety perspective too, it is better to have five lakh delivery associates on our streets with proper safety equipment than 2 crore shoppers daily," Ray said.

E-commerce companies are allowed to sell only essential items like grocery, healthcare and pharmaceutical products amid the nationwide lockdown imposed till May 3 to contain the spread of coronavirus infection.

The government recently allowed opening of neighbourhood and standalone shops, including those located in residential complexes within municipal areas, but at 50 per cent strength and after taking necessary precautions.

For green zones, IAMAI has suggested that all e-commerce entities abiding by the standard operating procedures (SOPs) may be permitted to operate at par with other establishments following similar SOPs to facilitate sales of all possible items, without any requirement for passes or permissions, the statement said.

It added that delivery of all goods should be allowed in orange zone on the basis of passes for vehicles and company authorisation as is being done in some states.

IAMAI has further suggested that individual passes should be done away with as there is high absenteeism of workforce leading to under utilisation of the passes issued by the authorities.

In red zone, IAMAI stated that all e-commerce entities are allowed to sell basic "essentials" that may include priority products that families and customers are demanding.

The delivery of extended essential items in these zones can be based on vehicle passes, and e-commerce companies may be permitted to deliver at the periphery of containment zones or housing clusters within large containment zones.

IAMAI has also suggested that items such as kitchenware; electronic appliances like mixers, grinder, water coolers, water purifiers, etc (those not requiring installation); laptops, chargers, routers, computer peripherals; coolers and other summer products; mobile phones; stationery; innerwear; apparel and footwear; home lighting (LED bulbs etc) be allowed over and above the items already permitted.

The industry body's members include e-commerce entities, including horizontal Multi Brand Product Retail Trading (MBRT) platforms, vertical MBRT platforms, Single Brand Retail Trading (SBRT) platform.

"Contrary to common belief, e-commerce benefits smaller sellers and manufacturer the most and takes care of the economic issue of the level playing field between offline and online retailers," IAMAI said.