BENGALURU: Unable to handle a sudden surge in demand, India’s two largest grocery players, BigBasket and Grofers, have started delaying orders by days and in some cases cancelling those, while also selectively shutting down certain delivery pin codes.

On Friday, raging consumers took to microblogging site Twitter to complain. “We’d like to inform you that, due to a sudden surge in orders, our concerned operations teams are trying their best to fulfil as many orders as possible; seeking your extended support in the time of crisis,” BigBasket’s Twitter handle responded to a customer.

Grocery deliverers are seeing as much as a five-fold increase in order volumes as many large format stores remain shut and people stayed indoors.

Swiggy microdelivery service Supr Daily, as well as rival Milkbasket are facing fulfilment challenges in certain localities. On Friday, Supr Daily nudged customers to order early as demand was high. BigBasket is taking at least three days to fulfil deliveries while Grofers is on average taking four days.

“While moving fast is a priority, the bigger issue is to ensure we don’t keep a large set of people in a warehouse, and that we follow all safety standards for staff as well as delivery workforce. This may also increase timelines for delivery, or lead to cancellations,” said a top executive at an online grocery delivery firm who did not want to be named.

The average order value for e-grocers has racked up by 20-25%, executives at these companies said. On Thursday, both Grofers and BigBasket faced brief outages amid panic buying.

“The next two weeks will see some panic and bulk buying, especially as cities announce lockdowns,” said Pinakiranjan Mishra, partner and leader, consumer products and retail, EY.

The ministry of consumer affairs on Friday directed state government and local authorities to exempt ecommerce services — warehousing, vendors, suppliers and on-ground delivery staff — from any imposition of Section 144.

Maharashtra ecommerce warehouses were forced to shut down on state restrictions. Grofers temporarily stopped operations in Pune after warehouses were shuttered, but is now getting back. “We are prioritising staples and groceries and other high-demand products… Promotions are being discontinued,” said Albinder Dhindsa, CEO, Grofers.

Flipkart said it has appealed to its seller community to ensure that products like masks, sanitisers, antiseptic liquids and handwash are made available at all times at the best possible prices.

Grofers said it was closely working with additional manufacturing partners to scale up supply while requesting customers to shop considerately . We are further bumping up capabilities and hiring more people ,” said Dhindsa.

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