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For small firms, delivering goods is still a struggle, Retail News, ET Retail

For small firms, delivering goods is still a struggleBENGALURU: Surat-based Aarti Sharma (name changed), who sells garments through a social media platform and typically earns Rs 10,000 on average each month, has not shipped any order in the last three weeks.

“I have goods worth Rs 8,000 stuck in transit. I couldn’t make my loan payment for the first time in three years,” Sharma told ET. Sharma’s case is not unique.

According to a survey of 350,000 online sellers conducted by e-commerce logistics firm ShipRocket, a majority of online sellers have shut shop amid the ongoing 21-day nationwide lockdown.

Only less than 1% of small businesses are eligible to sell goods online, it said.

Moreover, according to ShipRocket, only one-tenth of the 1% of sellers dealing in essential goods have been able to comply with requirements such as Goods and Services Tax, drug licences and food safety certificates raised by courier companies in order to ship these wares.

Even those that have all the documents are unable to ship their goods everywhere, as logistics firms do not service all pin codes.

Manpower shortage at courier companies and a lack of clarity on the ground on opening up factories continue to be key concerns, it said.

“Larger sellers are able to use their resources to overcome some of these challenges, but small and medium enterprises are hit a lot worse,” said Akshay Ghulati, co-founder of Shiprocket. “The current situation has been very challenging for SMEs selling online as deliveries of all non-essential goods have been suspended.”

In fact, ET reported on March 30 that more than one-fourth of India’s 69 million micro, small and medium enterprises may shut shop if the lockdown extends beyond four to eight weeks. Take the case of Arjun Vaidya, who owns the eponymous omnichannel Ayurvedic brand Dr Vaidya’s. He has spent the last eight days in his Mumbai office packing, labelling and shipping orders with his team of seven employees — all of whom live within a 2-kilometre radius. The company’s operations, right from manufacturing to packaging and logistics, have been hurt by the nationwide lockdown, he says.

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