After the official extension of the lockdown in the country, the central government and the home ministry have taken lessons from initial hurdles of the first 21-day lockdown. Initially, consumers had relied mostly on ecommerce deliveries to stock up with essentials like groceries. However, due to lack of on and off-ground clarity and firm guidelines, the deliveries faced hurdles with police stopping them and the supply chain was further impacted due to travel restrictions.
In fresh guidelines issued for the extended lockdown, the government has not put restrictions on ecommerce deliveries of essentials while supporting it with permissions for:
- Inter-state movement of goods and cargo inland and for exports
- Cross land border movement of essential goods including petroleum products and LPG, food products, medical supplies.
- Intra and inter-state movement of harvesting and sowing-related machines and implements
Further, the government has also allowed the opening of allied activities like:
- Manufacturing units of essential goods, medical devices, their raw materials
- Production units, which require continuous permission from the State Government.
- Manufacturing units of packaging material for food items, drugs, pharmaceutical and medical devices.
The decisions are a welcome move after the disruptions faced by such businesses in the first phase of the lockdown. Even though the government had allowed ecommerce operations, many deliveries were stopped by the police. After discussions and several cases of police harassment, the government enabled e-passes for delivery executives.
The priorities were on essentials delivery, which allowed grocery delivery, food delivery etc. Hence, we have seen several new entrants in the space allowing grocery delivery. From a macro perspective, the challenge was for the entire supply chain— from factories to wholesalers— to retailers— to customers.
The challenge for retailers was maintaining stocks for the higher demand due to the rush in the markets. This pressure of demand caused a ripple effect across the chain. It was especially challenging considering the retail dependency on procuring goods from wholesalers. In an ideal scenario, retailers stock up for multiple weeks, but that is usually not done in India due to issues with storage. Sourcing from wholesalers was further restricted due to restrictions on intracity travel.
However, this time with supply chain open for production as well as deliveries, the road is expected to be smoother.
Further, the government had said that if the situation is better in particular areas on April 20, it will allow ecommerce deliveries of non-essential goods as well. Hence, several startups and ecommerce companies have lauded the decision which could allow non-essential deliveries from April 21.
But the Confederation of All India Traders ( CAIT) has now issued an advisory to all the traders across the country registered on various ecommerce platforms that during the lockdown period and till any further guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs, they should restrict their business activities only to essential goods as per the guidelines issued by Ministry of Home Affairs today.
CAIT had earlier alleged that ecommerce companies didn’t shoulder the responsibility during the lockdown, and retailers were the ones involved in providing necessary essentials to the public.