E-comm firms well prepared to ensure smooth delivery amid Maharashtra lockdown
The Maharashtra government said all personnel belonging to home delivery services will have to be vaccinated and in case they are not vaccinated, they will have to carry a negative RT-PCR report.
E-commerce companies have said they are well prepared and working closely with delivery partners to ensure smooth and safe delivery of packages in Maharashtra where the government has announced a slew of restrictions, including night curfews and weekend lockdown to control the spike in COVID-19 cases.
However, there are concerns around the mandate for delivery staff to be either vaccinated or carry a negative RT-PCR report.
According to the health ministry data, till 8 am on Tuesday Maharashtra's COVID-19 caseload was 4,52,777 with an addition of 20,881 from the previous day.
In an order on Sunday, the Maharashtra government said all personnel belonging to home delivery services will have to be vaccinated and in case they are not vaccinated, they will have to carry a negative RT-PCR report. This will be applicable from April 10, 2021.
The state government also announced a weekend lockdown and night curfew during the weekdays from April 5 to April 30.
A senior e-commerce executive said with the number of cases in Maharashtra on the rise, the waiting time for getting the test and report may increase, which may in turn, affect the overall availability of staff.
Also, large-scale drives would have to be conducted to vaccinate the large workforce in the state that is engaged in making e-commerce and food deliveries.
A Flipkart spokesperson said the Group is committed to the safety of all its employees, sellers and stakeholders conducting business, while meeting the requirements of millions of its customers through safe supply chain.
In view of the state government's new guidelines, Flipkart is taking definitive steps to ensure frontline workers, including delivery, product installation executives and kirana partners, are tested for COVID-19 as expected while delivering shipments, the spokesperson added.
An Amazon spokesperson said the company is studying the latest state government guidelines to continue deliveries during curfew hours and on weekends in Maharashtra.
Also read: How Covid-19 changed consumption of home appliances, electronic devices in India
"We continue to practice stringent preventive measures for the safety of our associates such as adherence to social distancing norms, mandatory use of face covering and daily temperature screenings for our delivery associates and people working in operations sites," the spokesperson said.
A Snapdeal spokesperson said since the company works with multiple logistics partners, it does not anticipate any imminent disruption in its operations in Maharashtra.
"As in the past instances of lockdowns, we will continue to work very closely with our delivery partners to support the safety of personnel and the safe delivery of packages. In the last 48 hours, we have seen marked increase in orders from Maharashtra for home utility products, personal care products and apparel," the spokesperson noted.
Industry estimates suggest that Maharashtra makes a double digit contribution to e-commerce sales in the country and is a major market, along with geographies like Delhi-NCR and Karnataka.
Lockdowns are not a new phenomenon for e-commerce companies in the country. Last year in March, as the pandemic broke out, a nationwide lockdown was imposed that brought transportation of goods and movement of personnel to a grinding halt.
However, the e-commerce sector has also been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the pandemic, as containment measures introduced millions to the convenience of online shopping, and prompted seasoned online shoppers to buy more.
There were initial hiccups and e-commerce companies struggled to complete deliveries even as orders piled up. During the first two phases of the lockdown, e-commerce companies were allowed to sell only essential items like grocery, healthcare and pharmaceutical products. In the following phases (starting May 4), the restrictions were gradually lifted.
The players will bank on that situation to manage the situation better this time.
"Throughout the pandemic, our efforts have been to prioritise the safety of our supply chain and delivery executives and our customers...The learnings have been immense, and Flipkart is ensuring that appropriate safety equipment such as masks, sanitisers are available with employees as they follow COVID-appropriate behaviour," the Flipkart spokesperson added.
A spokesperson for online grocery delivery platform Grofers said the company is ensuring its delivery staff carries a negative RT-PCR report until they are vaccinated, as per the current government guidelines.
"To ensure the utmost safety of our employees, we are regularly conducting testing for our entire operations team," the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson noted that the platform has already witnessed a 30 per cent spike in weekly demand in Mumbai and Pune.
"With the state government announcing stricter lockdown norms, we are ramping up our capacities to serve our customers in a safe and secure manner as we anticipate an even greater surge in the coming few days. There has been a surge in demand in the hygiene category (disinfectants - up to 50 per cent and repellants - up to 100 per cent," the spokesperson said.
Grofers is also working closely with its manufacturing, merchant and brand partners to ensure there is no shortage of essential food items, and sanitation and personal hygiene products.
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