E-commerce firms welcome Centre’s move to partially allow sale of non-essentials

BENGALURU: In what comes as a relief to Indian e-commerce firms such as Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal, the government has allowed the industry to resume full-fledged operations across green and orange zones starting May 4, however, they will be restricted to sell non-essential items in red zones, as per a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) notification issued on Friday.

The MHA’s latest notification of Lockdown 3.0 will permit these companies, which mop up more than 90% of sales from non-essential items such as smartphones, electronics, appliances and apparel, to start taking orders after five weeks of a countrywide shutdown which hit their business severely, industry executives told ET.

“We welcome the government’s decision to allow e-commerce in orange and green zones to serve people safely with products that they need and have not been able to access due to the lockdown. Millions of small-and-medium businesses and traders will now be able to jumpstart their businesses and livelihoods across their workforce,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

Deliveries in green and orange zones, which either have no positive cases or have registered fewer number of Covid-19 patients, will be allowed to run between 7 am and 7 pm, as per the MHA guidelines for non-essential services. Further, companies said they will benefit from a wide availability of workforce as movement passes for staff will no longer be required in these regions.

“We welcome MHA’s announcement that paves the way for a calibrated resumption of various economic activities, including e-commerce, in various parts of the country. This will help start a gradual process of economic recovery by enabling lakhs of sellers and MSMEs to cater to the demand of users through online and offline channels,” a Snapdeal spokesperson said.

While some of the major economic zones will continue to remain unserviceable for e-commerce firms, analysts and executives said the wide spread of customers and sellers in Tier 2 and 3 towns, especially for the large marketplaces, will ensure that there is an adequate addressable market. Some executives, however, said demand could remain low due to economic stress.

“Many have been eagerly waiting for some relief in lockdown guidelines to buy air conditioners, refrigerators to beat the growing heat,” Srinivas Mothey, Senior Vice President at Paytm Mall, said. “This move will give a major relief to citizens and compliment the stupendous efforts the government has made to combat Covid-19 and keep Indians safe.”

“This is exactly what the (e-commerce) industry was asking for from the government—allow us to resume operations in all regions where operations can be carried out safely,” said a senior executive from one of the leading e-commerce firms. “Even we need to maintain safety of our staff which is why operations not being allowed in red zones is not such a big issue.”

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