Make home appliances, routers part of essential list: Retailers

Bengaluru: Large-format retailers have asked the government to include more items in its list of essential goods that can be sold during the ongoing 21-day nationwide lockdown. In a meeting on Wednesday with the empowered group for supply chain and logistics, companies including Flipkart, Snapdeal, Metro Cash and Carry and Spencer’s urged the government to expand its list to include items such as cooking utensils, small home appliances, electronics and other accessories.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has already allowed for the movement of all kinds of goods, not just essential goods, so it’s no longer an issue to deliver these to customers. We understand the government’s apprehension in allowing sale of these items, but they need to understand that there’s no demand for anything other than essentials from consumers right now,” a person who attended the meeting said requesting anonymity.

Online marketplaces have been lobbying to expand the scope of essential products that can be sold after the lockdown was implemented from March 25.

Ecommerce companies such as Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal had asked for inclusion of ‘work-from-home essentials’ that included electronic products including routers and chargers.

The home ministry later updated its list of essential items to include hand washes, soaps, disinfectants, surface cleaners, sanitary pads, diapers, chargers and more.

But retailers, both offline and online, are seeking a more liberal policy.

“Even when we met with Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal, he agreed that we should trust consumers at this point in time because no one is going to be ordering a 65-inch television right now. If someone is ordering a phone or a laptop, it might be because of a genuine need like for work or their children’s education,” said another person who was part of the discussions with the empowered group chaired by Parameswaran Iyer, secretary of the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation. Meanwhile, the Indian Railways had raised some concern about ecommerce platforms being allowed to move goods via train, arguing that they might use the capacity to move non-essential items.

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