The economic toll of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to be felt as several Indian states have slipped back into lockdowns and curfews to contain the spread of the disease. Retail outlets, coming off a stop-start year for sales, are again bearing the brunt of the pandemic. Meanwhile, their tensions with ecommerce companies have erupted once again.
On Sunday (May 2), owners of retail outlets across Mumbai complained that while they are absorbing losses from the lockdown that is in effect in Maharashtra, ecommerce portals Amazon and Flipkart are continuing to deliver non-essential products such as books, clothing and electronics. This despite the government stating in its order that only the delivery of essential products will be allowed through ecommerce portals.
It is worth noting that the Maharashtra government, in its lockdown order, failed to elaborate on what products will be considered as ‘essential’ for ecommerce deliveries, perhaps leading to confusion. During last year’s countrywide lockdown, groceries and other household goods, as well as medical supplies, were considered essential products and permitted for ecommerce deliveries.
“Amazon defies protocols in Maharashtra, selling Non-Essential & violating lockdown order, breaking the law & disregarding the Govt’s Covid19 fight, prompt Legal action must be taken & business operations to be suspended,” the All India Mobile Retailers Association tweeted on Sunday.
Amazon didn’t respond to Inc42’s queries till the time of publication. This story will be updated if we receive a response.
Notably, other ecommerce companies such as Flipkart and Reliance Digital are also delivering non-essential products such as books and electronic accessories. This despite both Amazon and Flipkart placing banners on the homepages of their websites stating that product availability may vary depending on localised lockdown restrictions in several parts of the country. The delivery of non-essential items is happening in Delhi as well, where lockdown guidelines only permitted the online delivery of essential goods.
Earlier this month, a clutch of Indian sellers associations including the All India Online Vendors Association (AIOVA) and the All India Mobile Retailers Association (AIMRA) hosted an online event on April 15, 2021, named ‘Asmbhav’, where small business owners detailed their grievances with ecommerce companies such as US-based Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart.
The ‘Asmbhav’ event was held on the same day as Amazon’s annual ‘Smbhav’ jamboree where the US-based ecommerce giant celebrates its work with small and medium businesses or SMBs in India.
Several small sellers at the ‘Asmbhav’ event complained that the deep discounts offered by large ecommerce operators were causing irreparable damage to the brick and mortar retail stores, who’ve seen a loss in business.
Other business owners, who’ve tried selling their wares on ecommerce sites, complained that the bulk of the online orders are assigned to one or two entities, while the thousands of smaller retailers present on the platform are just a statistic, for these companies to claim bragging rights.