Coronavirus impact: Ecommerce operations resume but deliveries may move in slow lane

Bengaluru: India’s top online grocers and e-retailers said they have restored operations in larger cities but are still hobbled by the massive backlog of orders and shortage of workers triggered by the ongoing nationwide lockdown to stem the tide of Covid-19.

E-grocers BigBasket and Grofers, ecommerce firms Amazon and Flipkart, as well as B2B platforms Jumbotail and Udaan cautioned consumers and kirana stores to expect delayed deliveries as they deal with operational upheaval caused by the restriction on manufacturing and movement of goods, and people.

“Our people count is improving day by day…but it is still not enough. We should clear up most slots by Tuesday, Wednesday,” said Hari Menon, chief executive of BigBasket, which is now delivering orders in all top cities including Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru. However, due to a backlog in orders and some operational issues the company is selectively opening new slots, he said.

Gurugram-based Grofers, which was unable to operate in several cities for a few days, following the announcement of the lockdown, has begun operations at 90% of its warehouses with half its delivery partners equipped with all relevant official permissions.


Improved Supplies

For customers there will be “longer delivery times,” Rohit Sharma, head of supply chain at Grofers, told ET.

As factories closed and trucking companies faced stoppages at state borders, deliveries to consumers — both online and at offline stores — have been delayed, company executives said.

B2B technology platforms like Jumbotail and Udaan are of the view that the disruption will settle in a few days as policymakers and businesses collaborate.

To ease this situation, the ministry of home affairs in its revised guidelines on Sunday said that transportation of all goods, and not just essential goods would be allowed.

Ecommerce firms welcomed the change, saying it would allow for faster movement of essential goods and let them bring non-essentials stuck in transit safely into their warehouses.

An ongoing consumer survey by community platform LocalCircles on the availability of essential goods through both offline and online stores shows a gradual improvement in the last two days.

Shortages of essentials were most severe on March 25 and 26, the survey showed, with perceptible improvement in availability at both kiranas, offline stores and online retailers during March 27 and 28.


“Keeping the small format retail store opened 24/7 is the key to ensure that everyone gets enough essential supply. Today about 50-70% of them are open but not all the time,” said Ashish Jhina, cofounder of Jumbotail.

Ecommerce companies also continue to service orders for essentials, but delivery timelines remain stretched.

“We continue to resume services gradually, adding in more cities as we get the necessary clearances and passes from the local authorities. We are first serving existing orders for essential products and accepting new orders for these items only,” an Amazon spokesperson told ET.

A senior executive at a leading ecommerce firm said while inter-state truck movement had begun, companies are facing challenges of managing stock within fulfilment centres.

“The bottleneck will move from trucks to fulfilment centres. It’s not ideal, but the government has been supportive, and we are slowly limping back,” the person said. “I won’t say back to normal, I don’t think it’ll get back to normal during this time, but things are certainly moving.”

Snapdeal, Paytm Mall and Shopclues are also delivering essentials. “We have started intracity deliveries of food and grocery items in Delhi-NCR, including in Gurugram,” a Snapdeal spokesperson said.

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