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E-tailers, Retail News, ET Retail

Issue e-passes, define ‘essential goods’: E-tailers Bengaluru: Physical curfew passes continue to remain a challenge for India’s largest online delivery players Amazon, Flipkart, Swiggy and Zomato to restart their operations in scale as each of these companies work with lakhs of personnel on the ground, executives at these companies told TOI.

Authorities need to digitise the curfew passes or use ID cards of the personnel for online delivery companies as the distribution of physical passes brings its own logistical challenges at the time of social distancing. These companies also want a definition from the Centre on what are essential and non-essential items so vehicles of these companies are not stopped unnecessarily.

Flipkart group CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy said executives of e-commerce and logistics firms had a meeting, via video conferencing, with commerce minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday and briefed him on the challenges online platforms have been facing while delivering essentials to consumers.

To get these passes, the companies also have to deal with police commissioners in over 600 districts of the country, which could also further delay the shipment of essential products even.

Making a physical pass could also involve collecting photographs of delivery personnel besides some other information that might not be readily available. “Physical passes are a problem. It’s time-consuming and not scalable. A better solution is to use ID cards,” said an executive at one of these companies, who did not wish to be named.

While the Delhi government has said that it will issue e-passes, the Karnataka government is also expected to experiment with digital passes starting Friday. “It’s not completely physical everywhere. Delhi is issuing digital passes, while Gurgaon is in the process of doing it. Maybe some people did not have the time to immediately build an app, while some states are more prepared. As long as the government is helpful, the issue of the nature of the passes is not a matter (of concern),” said T A Krishnan, co-founder and CEO, Ecom Express, a third-party logistics company catering to online platforms.

He said his fleet would be largely used for hyper-local deliveries within large cities now and there was no clarity on running vehicles interstate. According to him, interstate movement is a critical issue, as serving tier-2 or -3 consumers would be a challenge otherwise. Some executives have also said the definition of essential against non-essential should be allowed an industry self-certification, based on demand for goods and the ability to fulfill the orders. “A lot of products in transit which are pre curfew lockdown. The definition of non-essentials is limited as many have also ordered routers and laptops which are needed to work from home. Some have ordered blenders to cook at home while others have ordered toys for kids staying at home,” said a senior executive at one of the top e-tailers.

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