Indian e-retailers partially resume operations, contend with teething issues

After a day of disruptions, confusion and overzealous policing, e-commerce and online delivery firms partially resumed services on Thursday, with state governments saying they were taking steps to ensure an orderly supply of essential services and goods. However, severe restrictions in some major cities meant the deliveries landscape remained patchy across the nation.

Many online retailers started full or partial operations in some cities, but remained non-operational in others due to the restrictions on movement of traffic and delivery staff, even as they worked closely with local law enforcement authorities.

“We are working through the teething issues due to the lockdown with active support from central & state governments and leaders. Delhi, Maharashtra and Karnataka state governments have moved fast and already issued notifications to local authorities to let e-commerce operate in order to keep essential supplies intact. We are yet to see 100% impact in most states,” Zomato founder Deepinder Goyal tweeted on Thursday, day two of a three-week national lockdown.

Goyal also said that the next problem to solve is restaurant and cloud kitchen availability. “We need to ensure that kitchens stay open during these times so that we can help with food delivery as much as possible.”

With the supply chain of essential commodities taking a hit in the National Capital Region (NCR), Delhi police have given clearance to e-commerce sites to operate smoothly.

“The government is taking steps to ensure that production, supply or distribution of essential goods and services do not get affected during coronavirus lockdown. States are working to provide food and shelter to migrant workers,” Punya Salila Srivastava, joint secretary at the home ministry said.

The department for promotion of industry and internal trade has also set up a control room to monitor the status of transportation, manufacturing, and delivery of essential goods.

Albinder Dhindsa, CEO and co-founder of online grocery Grofers said that after a few hiccups, operations have been resumed in Delhi, Gurugram, Faridabad, Noida, Ghaziabad, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Kanpur with the help of local authorities.

“…For the remaining cities, we are working closely with the respective authorities and shall resume operations as soon as we get the necessary permissions,” Dhindsa said.

Online grocery delivery firm BigBasket’s app on Thursday said it is operational in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Coimbatore, Indore and Mumbai. It is not operational in Ghaziabad, Gurugram, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata and a few other cities, but is hoping to be in a day or two. However, in Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi, Ludhiana, Pune and Vizag, it is currently not operational and not sure when operations can be resumed.

“…In each of these cities, our operations are completely shut down due to severe restrictions imposed on our staff and movement of vehicles. We have been trying to work with the local government authorities to get necessary permissions/permits to start our operations, but unfortunately, we haven’t been able to get the necessary help so far,” BigBasket said.

Milkbasket said it has been able to resume partial operations in Gurugram, Noida and Bengaluru.

“Our Hyderabad operations are still shut. We are hopeful to resume services to all our customers by Saturday or Sunday. We really thank the authorities for listening to our concerns and ensuring the safety of our employees and vendors,” a Milkbasket spokesperson said.

E-commerce major Flipkart suspended operations on Wednesday morning and then resumed its grocery service on the same evening after it said the issues were resolved with the support of local authorities in various cities.

Ashish Jhina, chief operating officer and co-founder of online wholesale marketplace for food and grocery Jumbotail, said it is working closely with the government and police to ensure unhindered operations in fulfilment centres, and logistics delivery of goods from their fulfilment and distribution centres to the kirana stores.

“…Our delivery organization had come to a standstill over the past two days. While the directives from the government were clear that home delivery of fresh food was an essential service, local police were not clear about the same and had blocked our delivery folks in a brutal manner, so we had to stop operations. Bengaluru and NCR are getting back to normal, other states are still off. We are hoping we can get back to working across the board by Friday,” said Shan Kadavil, CEO and co-founder of FreshToHome.

Two Bengaluru-based online medicine delivery firms said they continued to face challenges even after holding discussions with the police.

“Even after holding discussions with police authorities and state governments and even after getting curfew passes, nobody showed up for delivery work today. Delivery workers are rattled by the violence unleashed by police. We are not sure by when normal operations might return,” said an executive at a medicine delivery startup, requesting anonymity.

Offline seller Reliance Retail has asked its customers to place orders online which would then be packed and kept ready for a pickup, a spokesperson said.

DMart too sent out messages to housing societies asking them to send their orders along with the location. The order can be placed by any authorized person from a housing society and the delivery will take place between 5 am and 12 midnight.

Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy said that e-commerce and logistics industry had a very positive meeting with Union minister Piyush Goyal.

Meanwhile, a Snapdeal spokesperson said it has extended the timelines available to its sellers for shipping orders received by them.

Kalpana Pathak, Nandita Mathur, Shaswati Das and Salman S.H. contributed to this story.

This article was first published on livemint.com.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.