Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, and Paytm Mall have started taking orders for non-essential items in India as the government has eased the national lockdown that was imposed on March 24 to curb the coronavirus outbreak. The e-commerce companies are restricted to delivering non-essential items in Green and Orange zones marked in the country, on the basis of the spread of COVID-19, the disease that is supposedly caused due to the novel coronavirus. However, in the case of Red zones, which are mainly various metropolitan cities, including the nation's capital Delhi and economic capital Mumbai, e-commerce operations are limited to essential items.
The e-commerce companies, including Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, and Paytm Mall, are initially kicking off their businesses for the Green and Orange zones. This means that people living in such zones can now order most of the goods available online. The case is, however, not similar for the customers residing in the Red zones as they aren't able to make purchases of anything beyond essential items — mainly groceries and other daily essentials.
Companies such as Amazon and Paytm Mall believe that the resumption of e-commerce sales in the country will help people follow social distancing and order what they need without leaving their homes. Additionally, small businesses and merchants selling goods through e-commerce sites will be able to resume their earnings that got halted due to the lockdown.
“The government has taken an insightful decision by opening e-commerce deliveries of non-essential items in Green and Orange zones,” said Srinivas Mothey, Senior Vice President, Paytm Mall.
The official guidelines laid down by the Ministry of Home Affairs didn't say anything in particular about e-commerce operations in the Green and Orange zones. However, the guidelines did mention that e-commerce activities “will be permitted only in respect of essential goods” and not for fulfilling any other orders. Additionally, state governments have the power to convert the existing Green and Orange zones in their states to Red and vice versa. All this has led to some challenges for the e-commerce companies.
Sources at Amazon and Flipkart have told Gadgets 360 that they're facing difficulties on a local level as some state governments have different rules than others. This may result in some delay in initial shipments. Having said that, the central government has allowed e-commerce companies to continue their warehousing operations for both essential and non-essential goods across the country. This would make it easier for them to fulfil orders — irrespective of zones.
Breeze for all
Amazon and Flipkart are amongst the major companies in India that weren't able to operate their businesses at scale due to the coronavirus lockdown in the country. The companies reduced their operations to process essential item orders and started exploring ways to fulfil even essential orders as there was a lack of delivery fleet due to the pandemic.
While Amazon announced its partnership with the Indian Railways to deliver essential goods in the country, Flipkart also recently partnered with cab services company Meru to deliver daily essentials and groceries in Bengaluru, Delhi NCR, and Hyderabad. Some other online marketplaces including Snapdeal had continued to accept orders for both essential and non-essential items during the lockdown period, but they weren't able to process those orders due to state restrictions.
Having said that, the recent ease given by the government has made things easier for all e-commerce companies in the country.
“We expect 80-90 percent of our sellers in the non-restricted zones to be live this week,” a Snapdeal spokesperson told Gadgets 360. The New Delhi-based company is presently aiming to ship the orders it received before the lockdown was imposed. Also, since it has third-party logistics partners, it has shared visibility of the expected order volumes with its partners and is working towards meeting the demand.
Urge to consider e-commerce for Red zones as well
Companies including Amazon, Flipkart, and Snapdeal have ensured that they'll take all required safety measures to help limit the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the country. A request has also been made from their side to the government to look for ways to help them cater to the people living in the Red zones.
“While we will maintain the sanctity of the new guidelines around the Red zones, we urge the government to consider the positive role e-commerce can play to get customers all priority products they need in the Red zones as well, enabling a stronger economic support for the small businesses while prioritising safety,” said an Amazon spokesperson in a statement emailed to Gadgets 360.
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