Coronavirus lockdown disrupts e-commerce as deliveries choke

E-commerce companies striving to ensure safety and business continuity


On Wednesday, e-commerce major Flipkart temporarily suspended its operations due to the nationwide lockdown in view of the coronavirus disease or COVID-19. The company had been facing challenges due to the lockdown for the past few days and had been trying to deal with the situation. 

“Flipkart’s deliveries in certain areas had been affected due to the disruptions over the past few days in some states. As a result, we were offering extended delivery timelines,” Rajneesh Kumar, Senior Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Flipkart Group told THE WEEK. 

The company is hopeful to resume its services soon to its customers. “We will be live soon to ensure delivery of essentials to customers. Just ensuring that our delivery boys and supply chain executives feel safe. We are collaborating with local governments to ensure that. Our teams and delivery and supply-chain executives continue to play a critical role in serving customers as they stay indoors following the directives issued by the state governments and are supporting social distancing by ensuring customers have needed supplies,” Kumar said. 

Other online retailers such as Amazon India, BigBasket and Grofers said they were also gearing up to deal with the current crisis. Amazon India said it was prioritising products customers needed the most during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are temporarily prioritising our available fulfilment and logistics capacity to serve products that are currently critical for our customers such as household staples, packaged food, health care, hygiene, personal safety and other high priority products. This also means that we have to temporarily stop taking orders and disable shipments for lower-priority products,” said an Amazon India spokesperson.

The spokesperson further stated that the company was continuing to make changes to their logistics, transportation, supply chain, purchasing and seller processes to prioritise stocking and delivering priority products. “We will inform customers about changes to our services as the situation continues to evolve.”

Grofers is also trying to overcome similar challenges. Grofers CEO and co-founder Albinder Dhindsa said that due to lack of clarity at the ground level, the company faced operational challenges across many states. At the same time, the company is taking steps to assure that its teams are working relentlessly to ensure deliveries of essential products to avoid any kind of panic among its customers. “We are now working with administrations across multiple cities to resolve these issues and hope to assist our compatriots in these difficult times. We are also going to test the option of carrying out deliveries at night to address the high surge in demand starting this week. We are introducing zero touch deliveries in housing societies for prepaid orders and are in touch with authorities to arrange curfew passes for each delivery rider amidst the lockdown situation,” Dhindsa told THE WEEK. 

Similarly, BigBasket—another major player in the groceries delivery segment—is also trying to solve issues regarding deliveries. The major challenge for BigBasket is that sometimes its delivery partners were getting stopped by the police, and some of them have even got beaten up by the police for no fault of theirs. Currently, the BigBasket site is down due to the overwhelming demand. 

“Our supply side is actually working fine, but what we are facing is an unprecedented increase in demand, well beyond what we had planned for. Our suppliers have been working closely with us to cater to this. However, meeting this demand requires adding bikes, vans and manpower. While we are trying, it's difficult to do this in a short period of time. Therefore, what we are trying to do is to only accept as many orders as we are able to service, while maintaining a high level of service for our customers. In parallel, we are trying our best to gear up to meet the high demand,” said a company spokesperson. 

In addition to these, all the players are ensuring that their delivery partners ensure utmost hygiene and follow safety measures while making deliveries to their customers. Amazon India spokesperson said that they are working hard and have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances. 

Flipkart, too, is working hard to maintain social distancing. “Our teams and delivery and supply-chain executives continue to play a critical role in serving customers as they stay indoors following the directives issued by the state governments and are supporting social distancing by ensuring customers have needed supplies,” said Kumar. 

Grofers is also working consistently to provide hygiene safety so that the customers are safe from COVID-19. “We are abiding by the rules and ensuring the maintenance of proper hygiene and sanitation in our facilities and vehicles. We understand that a lot of vulnerable sections of our society are highly dependent on our services and we take this responsibility very seriously,” remarked Dhindsa.

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