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E-comm cos continue to face hurdles in deliveries, Retail News, ET Retail

E-comm cos continue to face hurdles in deliveries Bengaluru: Top online retailers Amazon India and Flipkart, e-grocers like Grofers and Bigbasket, business-to-business platform Udaan, food-delivery players like Swiggy and Zomato besides medicine-delivery startup 1mg continued to face disruption in their operations. On the ground across the country, police personnel stopped their delivery executives and shut down warehouses as operations came to a halt.

Amazon India and Flipkart are delaying shipments of non-essential goods to focus on food and grocery, but also face the challenge of a shutdown of state borders to move goods across the country. “There are two issues, — without interstate movement it’s impossible to deliver orders. And second, the definition of essential items needs to be simple and uniform for everyone, so we don’t face different issues in different states,” a person briefed on the matter said.

As the lockdown across major cities gets tighter, essential services like daily grocery and fresh vegetables through Amazon Pantry, Amazon Fresh, were not operating throughout Monday and Ekart (Flipkart’s logistics arm) warehouse was forced to shut in Delhi last night, owing to lack of clarity among officials and police on the ground. This even led to two delivery and supply chain executives getting arrested on Sunday, two people aware of the matter said.

Online food-delivery players like Swiggy also have some of the cloud kitchens, which only do deliveries and don’t have a seating area, operating in their network being asked to shut down besides harassment of delivery personnel across the country. Platforms like Udaan cater to about 20% of the consumption in cities like Bengaluru through kiranas and small stores, including the supply of groceries and vegetables.

These sources said representatives of online delivery companies had a meeting with the ministry of consumer affairs on Monday where they stressed on the need to allow the interstate movement of grocery items, vegetables, and other daily essentials. Another person said the government is clear about the ease e-commerce platforms can bring but it needs to make sure the message to officials on the ground is clear.

“So, they don’t create unnecessary issues, in the first mile or last mile,” he added. On Friday, the ministry of consumer affairs had urged all state and local governments to exempt e-commerce operations, including their warehousing and logistics facilities and services, from any type of prohibitory orders amid the coronavirus outbreak so that there is no shortage of essential items for consumers.

Meanwhile, Amazon India said it is making changes in its policies across logistics, transportation, supply chain, purchasing, and seller processes. “This includes prioritising stocking and delivering priority items like household staples, health and hygiene products, sanitisers, baby formula, and medical supplies. We will inform customers about changes to our services as the situation continues to evolve,” a company spokesperson said.

Several merchants selling non-essential items also found their products being put on hold and not displayed on the platform. To be sure, it would be a challenge for online platforms to deliver necessary items on time if the government exceptions are not implemented properly.

“There are operational issues on the ground which impact our ability to seamlessly service the communities as they stay indoors. We are working with the Centre and state governments as an industry to solve these challenges,” a Flipkart spokesperson added.

According to communication to sellers by both the companies, reviewed by TOI, e-commerce companies had to implement several restrictions like the delay of shipping by two days, large delivery hubs being closed, and many seller services being put on hold. For instance, FBA or what is called Fulfilled by Amazon, postponed all its pickup schedules for sellers for Monday, where it offers its logistics service to the merchants to deliver products to consumers. Several non-essential item orders are being given delivery estimates of 7-14 days. Amazon is also asking sellers to call consumers to cancel some orders that are already placed but can’t be serviced.

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