As the country prepares for Janata Curfew proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for Sunday, March 22, the government has noted that ecommerce is part of essential services in India. The secretary of the department of consumer affairs in a note on March 20 (Friday) said that ecommerce operations are exempt from prohibitory orders amid coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The decision was made in an inter-ministerial meeting held today to maintain the supply of goods and services during any lockdown period, which also discussed on issues relating to operations of retail (ecommerce), wholesale, distribution, transport, and warehousing. The department has advised state governments and local administration to exempt ecommerce operations including logistics and warehousing), wholesaler, their vendors and third-party delivery partners who are part of the supply and logistics chain ecosystem, from any type of prohibitory orders.
However, the department has noted that ecommerce companies and delivery partners are required to maintain proper hygiene and sanitation in their facilities, and vehicles, they may be regularly inspected and disinfected.
This can be seen as a huge win for the ecommerce sector, which has been devising strategies to fulfil the spike in demand over the last few weeks. At present, the government has put several restrictions on movement within and outside the cities as the number of coronavirus and Covid-19 cases in India crosses over 250.
The pandemic has reportedly hit the community transmission stage, but the government has so far stayed away from announcing it as such.
In response to the letter, Kunal Bahl, cofounder of Snapdeal, tweeted, “Great to see the direction given by Secretary of Dept of Consumer Affairs about the fact that ecommerce is an essential service and related operations would be exempt from any type of prohibitory orders. In these times of turbulence, ecommerce can ensure seamless supply.”
The ministry of consumer affairs had directed ecommerce companies to maintain proper hygiene of all last-mile delivery processes to control the spread of coronavirus (covid19)cases. “All ecommerce platforms are requested to ensure the maintenance of proper hygiene and sanitation of the last-mile delivery personnel, kitchen, parking areas and delivery vehicles,” the ministry said.
On their part, food and grocery delivery companies like Zomato, Swiggy, Grofers, BigBasket etc have been providing delivery-related instructions to customers, restaurants and delivery partners alike. Further, ecommerce companies are seeing a surge in demand, which has led to inventory running out for ecommerce marketplaces Amazon and Flipkart, as well as a surge in prices.
To counter this, Amazon India has blocked several products that were selling at a price higher than the MRP and Walmart-owned Flipkart is removing products with fake claims and inflated prices on an ongoing basis.