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#StartupsVsCovid19: Centre Directs State Govt To Support Ecommerce Players

#StartupsVsCovid19: Centre Directs State Govt To Support Ecommerce Players

Ecommerce companies are facing disruptions on the ground since Sunday

Consumer affairs department has asked states to hold discussions with ecommerce players

Ecommerce players want to add more products under the 'essential items' list

Even after getting recognised as a part of essential services by the central government, ecommerce companies across the country are now facing disruptions from law enforcement agencies amid the coronavirus lockdown.

In response to the concerns raised by these ecommerce companies, the consumer affairs department has now asked respective state departments to sort out this issue by conducting discussions with these players. The directive is sent to nodal officers of state to ensure that the supply chain of ecommerce companies isn’t interrupted in these crucial times.

According to a report by CNBC, ecommerce companies reported that local law enforcement agencies, citing lockdown, are forcing them to close their warehouses. They even stopped and arrested some of the delivery-partners of these companies, thereby affecting the business. It is worth noting that these authorities are taking these measures even after the central government, on Friday, had already exempted ecommerce companies from the lockdown.

Some of these cases started on Sunday (March 22) when the whole country was observing Janta Curfew (Self Lockdown). On that day, delivery-partners of online grocery delivery platform Grofers were stopped by law enforcement agencies in many states.

Speaking to Inc42, a Grofers spokesperson said, “Due to some confusion regarding the services exempted, many of our delivery riders were stopped which led to a delay in the delivery of almost 60K orders countrywide. This does not only affect the morale of the delivery staff who are working selflessly to support people but is also causing inconvenience to many customers who are relying highly on our services.”

On Monday, even Flipkart and Amazon temporarily suspended logistics services for sellers across regions, citing operational constraints. At the same time, nearly 25,000-30,000 supermarkets were impacted by the police order to close warehouses in Punjab, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, according to Retailers Association of India.

After these incidents came to light, the consumer affairs department felt the necessity to step in to help citizens get their online orders without any hassle. It has now sent a letter to all the chief secretaries of all states asking them not to create any more roadblocks for ecommerce players by exempting their operations such as warehousing, logistics, wholesalers vendors and delivery partners. The department has also asked ecommerce companies to provide delivery partners with ID cards for easy passage at police checkpoints.

What To Deliver And What Not To?

Amid the coronavirus lockdown, many state governments have allowed only the delivery of ‘essential items’ by ecommerce platforms. However, now many industry players are seeking a clear definition of essential items from the government. Besides food, medicines, and sanitizers, ecommerce players believe that products such as diapers, work-from-home tools and other personal requirements also fall under the category of essential items in this situation.

Ecommerce companies are witnessing an increase in the number of orders of items such as earphones and other accessories. But as these products don’t fall under the category of essential items, ecommerce players are not able to deliver these items. “There needs to be an expansion of the list of essential items for ecommerce deliveries,” an executive of an ecommerce company told CNBC.

Joint secretary of the consumer affairs department Vineet Mathur said that the government has only said these companies to prioritise essential items. “There is no restriction on delivery of other items as well,” Mathur noted.