Corona lockdown effect – online companies in Bengaluru face disruption in service

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BENGALURU: The ground operations of several online delivery companies were disrupted across the country on Monday as authorities, scrambling to check the spread of coronavirus, stopped delivery executives and shut down warehouses.

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Top online retailers Amazon India and Flipkart, e-grocers Grofers and Bigbasket, business-to-business platform Udaan, food delivery players Swiggy and Zomato, delivery startup 1MG were among the affected companies.

Amazon and Flipkart are delaying shipments of nonessential goods to focus on food and grocery, but they face growing goods to focus on food and grocery, but they face growing complications as states seal borders.

“There are two issues. One, without interstate movement, it’s impossible to deliver orders. Two, the definition of essential items needs to be simple and uniform for everyone, so we don’t face different issues in different states,” said an e-commerce executive.

As more cities locked down or extended the curbs on movement introduced over the weekend, deliveries of groceries and vegetables through Amazon Pantry and Amazon Fresh halted on Monday. A warehouse of Ekart, Flipkart’s logistics arm, in Delhi was shut on Monday because of a lack of clarity among officials and police on the ground. And two delivery and supply chain executives were arrested on Sunday, according
to people aware of the developments.

Food delivery players’ cloud kitchens, which only offer deliveries and have no seating for diners, also suspended operations in many parts of the country. Platforms like Udaan cater to about 20% of consumption in cities like Bengaluru through a large network of affiliated kiranas and small stores.

Representatives of online delivery companies met officials of the ministry of consumer affairs on Monday, stressing on the need to allow the interstate movement of essential goods, according to sources.

An e-commerce representative said the government was aware of the ease and value online platforms offered, but a message on the same needed to go to authorities on the ground. “So, they don’t create unnecessary issues, in the first mile,” the person said.

On March 20, the ministry of consumer affairs had urged all state and local governments to exempt e-commerce operations, including warehousing and logistics facilities and services, from prohibitory orders. This, it added, would ensure there is no shortage of everyday consumer items.

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