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Lockdown 4.0: E-commerce cos resume full operations

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Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

E-commerce companies like Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal are engaging closely with seller partners as they resume full services across the country (except containment zones), more than 50 days after the beginning of coronavirus-induced lockdown.

The Union Home Ministry, on Sunday, had said "all other activities will be permitted, except those which are specifically prohibited" under the fourth phase of the lockdown, that ends on May 31.

However, in containment zones, only essential activities will be allowed.

E-commerce companies were awaiting clarity from states on the matter.

With states like Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Assam and Rajasthan allowing online businesses to deliver all items in red zones as well, companies are now geared up to resume full operations.

"We welcome the efforts by the governments at the Centre and states in progressively charting out a lockdown exit plan and allowing e-commerce to serve the consumers with their varied product needs in all the classified zones, except containment zones," a Flipkart Group spokesperson said.

In accordance with the latest government guidelines and directives, Flipkart Group will continue to work with local authorities while serving customers, sellers through its safe supply chain, the spokesperson said.

In the first two phases of the lockdown (that started from March 25), e-commerce companies were allowed to sell only essential items like grocery, healthcare and pharmaceautical products.

In the third phase (May 4-17), these platforms were allowed to sell all items in orange and green zones, but only essential items were allowed to be shipped in red zones, which included top e-commerce hubs like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune and Hyderabad.

The Flipkart spokesperson said the new guidelines will help restore businesses of MSMEs faster, and that the company is working with lakhs of MSMEs and sellers across India to provide them with constant counsel and help with their business readiness.

"Our seller support team is providing on-ground support to sellers to help them resume operations swiftly and make products available for the consumers in this time of need.

"We continue to stay committed to following the safety and health procedures at our facilities and for our supply chain and delivery staff, thereby supporting the central and state governments in their battle against the pandemic," the spokesperson said.

An Amazon India spokesperson said the latest development will give a fillip to the six lakh retailers and MSMEs on its marketplace and help revive economic activity more broadly.

"We are humbled by the opportunity to be an extended partner to the government as it balances saving lives alongside creating livelihood. We remain committed as always to ensuring the safety of our customers and our employees while creating business and employment opportunity," the spokesperson added.

E-commerce platforms saw a significant impact on their business during the lockdown, given that grocery segment accounts for a small portion of online sales.

Sales of non-essential items on e-commerce platforms in the first week of May, after sales of such items were allowed in green and orange zones, were lower than last year on account of the lockdown.

Industry executives said orders were scaling as people bought apparel, smartphones and grooming products among other items, but the sector continues to face the challenge of availability of limited manpower for warehouses and delivery.

A Snapdeal spokesperson said order volumes grew 2.4X on day one of expanded operations, and 65 per cent of the orders were from red zone cities.

Products like budget phones, kids garments, pressure cookers, trimmers, t-shirts were the best sellers.

"On Day 1 of the expanded operations, the orders grew rapidly and had crossed 2.4 times the average of the previous 15 days by 3 pm on Monday. The surge in orders started around 10 pm on Sunday and has been growing every hour from 8 am onwards," the spokesperson said.

Users in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Patna, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Jaipur, Kota, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Indore and Kolkata accounted for a large part of the orders placed from cities classified as red zones, the spokesperson said.

Delivery of products in red zones is expected to start from Tuesday and will be made operational in accordance with Ministry of Home Affairs and state-specific guidelines, the spokesperson added.

Paytm Mall said it saw a 50 per cent surge in sales for grooming products like shavers, trimmers, epilators, hair straighteners and styling products and hair dryers, from tier II and III cities in May over March.

Most trimmers were sold in cities like Lucknow, Raipur, Guwahati, Belgaum, Nagpur, Surat, and other smaller cities.

The company said it has also seen a steady increase in the number of female shoppers from smaller towns on its platform.

"We believe the lockdown has made people realize in metros as well as smaller cities that personal grooming products should always be kept handy. We think the demand for these products is set to rise further over the next few weeks and post that it would remain consistently high," Srinivas Mothey, Senior Vice President of Paytm Mall, said.

Flipkart group company Myntra also said it is re-opening its online store and will start making deliveries.

LimeRoad, another fashion e-tailer, said it expects a massive surge in essentials within the lifestyle category and is rapidly activating deep supply networks around these products.

"By helping thousands of partner sellers and the MSME community with short-term issues they faced during this period such as inventory management, availability of labour, travel passes and raw material, LimeRoad has enabled them to bounce back, facilitating in their own way, India's economic recovery," it added.

The company said it has offered its partners access to contract labour and workers so that they can operate their warehouses across shifts and fulfill all customer demands efficiently.

To deal with complexities within the courier networks, LimeRoad is using minute-based fetch API in all containment pin codes where the cash-on-delivery option has been temporarily suspended so as to minimise cash handling by people.

Industry body IAMAI said digital services till date have helped ease the burden of lockdown with services facilitating work from home, e-commerce, edutech, digital payments and digital entertainment.

"Even as lockdown 4.0 is extended, the country is looking at a new normal where social interactions are bound to be severely distorted, either under injunction or public awareness or concerns.

"Digital platforms are the only plausible medium for both businesses and customers in the coming days, and needs to be strengthened," the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) said.

It added that the "bold and emerging Indian tech start-up sector is more than capable to develop a self-reliant digital services sector that can cater to the needs of the country in the new normal".

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, May 18 2020. 22:12 IST
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