Here’s Why Online Grocers Still Can’t Deliver Despite Clearance
(Update 27 March: Big Basket, Grofers and others have begun deliveries in Delhi-NCR, but with delayed timelines)
On 25 March, several e-commerce companies met with Indian government officials seeking clearance for their agents to be able to deliver groceries online to customers. Groceries have been classified as essential commodities and online grocers fall into that category. Yet, their delivery agents were being stopped by authorities.
The police have cleared "curfew" passes for the delivery agents of online grocers to carry on their duties amid the nationwide lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Yet deliveries are significantly delayed or not possible at all in several cities.
Big Basket and Grofers have started delivery, but are busy clearing the backlog of orders over the past few days, ever since "Janta Curfew" and the subsequent lockdown. The apps had issues with authorities not allowing deliveries on Day 1 of lockdown on 25 March.
The earliest delivery time for groceries ordered on 26 March was 31 March according to the Big Basket app. Grofers was showing 7 April as the earliest date of delivery for items ordered on 26 March. Amazon did not have stock of some of the most commonly ordered items.
Governments of Karnataka and Delhi have allowed home-delivery of groceries, but still there are issues.
A statement from Milk Basket, a daily needs delivery app, says it has partially resumed operations.
“We are glad to inform that we have been able to resume partial operations across Gurgaon, Noida and Bangalore. Our Hyderabad operations are still shut. We are hopeful to resume services to all our customers by Sat/Sun. We really thank the authorities for listening to our concerns and ensuring safety of our employees and vendors.”Milk Basket Statement
While the authorisation has come from the authorities to allow delivery of goods, the e-commerce companies are facing a different issue amid the paranoia surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a person who works in the FMCG sector, many of the warehouses for online grocers and retailers like Amazon are located on the outskirts of cities or in villages. A case in point are the warehouses of online retailers located near Bhiwandi near Mumbai.
With the paranoia surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and the prime minister's appeal to stay in lockdown, apparently the locals from villages near these warehouses are preventing staff from coming to work there.
Further updates on this situation are expected. It will take a few days to normalise.