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E-tailers eye rlys, India Post for essentials, Retail News, ET Retail

E-tailers eye rlys, India Post for essentials Bengaluru: India’s largest online retail platforms are looking to tap into the century-old networks of Indian Railways and India Post for removing supply chain bottlenecks to deliver essentials to consumers amid the national lockdown, three people aware of the matter said.

There was a meeting on Saturday evening on the same issue between top officials of government departments like the department for promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT) and online platforms such as Amazon, Flipkart, third-party logistics firm Delhivery and Uber. Top bureaucrats from consumer affairs, civil aviation, railways and India Post were also present, sources added.

As passenger trains are not running now, e-commerce firms are looking to use the railways to ship goods faster without traffic on tracks. India Post, which has one of the largest last-mile delivery networks in the country, would come in handy in getting essentials to consumers across top metros and smaller cities as well. India has over 1.5 lakh post offices. A senior government official in the DPIIT confirmed the development. This comes at a time when online platforms continue to battle labour shortage even when offering double incentives for deliveries.

“Railways is doing couriers right now. It is prepared to run the extra services for e-commerce companies. Railways board chairman was also present in the meeting (with the online platforms). They can do these short services while running trains at Rajdhani’s pace (one of the fastest trains). India Post is already involved in essential services and they can do both — the first mile and last mile,” this official said.

The transportation from railways will help e-commerce companies take goods from manufacturers to warehouses, as overall trucking routes remain choked, while India Post can act as a potential last-mile distributor of goods, another person aware of the goings-on said.

“Conversations with India Post are still at a discussion stage. What is being discussed is post offices serving as drop locations where consumers can pick up fixed packages of essentials. Or the postman can also deliver these,” the source mentioned earlier said. Another aspect that is being discussed is pick-up of orders and packages from large offline retailers, including D-Mart, to avoid crowding at stores. “This is something platforms have to decide. If they want to do this at scale and solve the ongoing issue, they can,” the government official added. According to him, the situation still remains dynamic with daily improvements in the supply chain network compared to the previous week.

“To achieve the objective of moving essential supplies across the country, from our sellers/vendors to the customers, our teams are exploring all possible collaboration ideas, including the railways among several other innovative ideas,” said Rajneesh Kumar, chief corporate affairs officer at Flipkart. He added the company has been hiring and that it is offering incentives to supply chain and delivery executives engaged in grocery/essentials to strengthen delivery capabilities.

An Amazon India spokesperson did not respond to TOI’s queries.

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