These may begin with summer essentials, such as fans, refrigerators, cooking paraphernalia like induction stoves and rice cookers and work-from-home items, including, laptops, mobile phones, and other electronic accessories. But delivery timelines may vary from state to state as companies will need to overcome logistics hurdles created by the ongoing lockdown. Mobile phones and electronics account for over half the gross sales of top e-tailers like Flipkart and Amazon India.
“We will start taking orders for non-essentials from April 18,” said a senior executive at one of India’s leading online marketplaces. “Our staff strength currently is at 80-85%.” A merchant, who sells on Amazon India, said he was told by the e-tailer to be prepared to start selling again from April 20 and a final communication would be sent once the company gets a final word from the government.
The Maharashtra government on Wednesday issued a notification, allowing the sale of electronic appliances apart from food, medicine and other essentials via e-commerce. Other states may soon follow, said senior industry executives. A few online platforms, however, have reached out to the central government for further clarity if they can restart selling across all categories. The move could also led to e-commerce companies sourcing goods from local retailers to deliver them quickly to consumers, as flight and train services remain suspended, said logistics companies. “Neighbourhood brick-and-mortar retailers, who stocked up before the lockdown, have a lot of inventory. Like it happened in the case of essentials, online players would onboard these merchants and follow a hyper-local model instead of sourcing from their warehouses,” said Abhishek Bansal, co-founder of Shadowfax, a last-mile delivery services platform.
In some cases, delivery could take anywhere from a week to 10 days. But it would mark a staggered opening of e-commerce after 27 days of lockdown. “This is definitely a positive beginning,” said Rubal Jain, MD of Safexpress. “Consumers, however, need to understand that real-time ground zero situation is very fluid. For instance, in Maharashtra, Mumbai is shut and deliveries in that zone will be tough.”
While Flipkart and Snapdeal said it is looking to bring products that consumers need to their doorsteps while maintaining government directives on social-distancing and sanitisation, an Amazon India spokesperson said the firm was evaluating the guidelines.
Labour shortage, however, continues to be a concern, especially across large cities. “Things will open but it will take at least one week for the supply chain to be normal,” said Satish Meena, senior forecast analyst at market research firm Forrester.