Walmart-owned Flipkart and Amazon India’s Pantry have been suspended temporarily as India entered a 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
E-commerce platforms have seen manifold growth in orders on their platforms in India over the past few weeks as people logged online to stock food and household items as well as office items such as routers and cables (for work from home) on concerns around the spread of COVID-19 and restrictions in public movement that have now been enforced.
“Consequent to the order issued on March 24 by the Ministry of Home Affairs announcing a 21-day lockdown across India to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19, we are temporarily suspending our services,” Flipkart said in a blog post.
The blog further said, “We will be back to serve you as soon as possible.”
Similarly, a note on Amazon India’s Pantry web page said, “Dear customers, due to unforeseen circumstances, Amazon Pantry service is temporarily unavailable in your city. We will be back soon”.
A Snapdeal spokesperson said the company is working region-wise to complete as many deliveries of essential goods to customers as possible as per local operating conditions.
“We are also actively supporting central and state authorities to help streamline issues for e-commerce operations in order to effectively serve the needs of consumers,” the spokesperson added.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a complete lockdown across the country for 21 days, asserting that social distancing is the only way out for the country in its decisive battle against coronavirus. More than 500 people have been tested positive for coronavirus in India with 9 deaths.
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Amazon India had on Tuesday said it has temporarily stopped taking orders and disabled shipment of low-priority products as it focuses on delivery of essential items like household staples, hygiene and other high-priority products.
E-commerce players, including Amazon India and Milkbasket, have been facing disruption in delivery of even essential products to their customers.
The government, however, in its notification has allowed delivery of all essential goods including food, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment through e-commerce.
Industry watchers have said there is an urgent need for uniform classification of essential items across various states, and that instructions need to flow down clearly to the last mile, where the delivery agents are facing issues.
Industry experts also flagged challenges around the movement of delivery personnel and staff, as well as the interstate movement of goods amid lockdown across the country.
Ananth Narayanan, chief executive officer and co-founder of Medlife, said one of its delivery personnel in Delhi was hit by the cops on the way back to the fulfillment center.
“In the process, he was injured and suffered bruises on his face and body. We now also have reports of similar incidents in Bengaluru,” he added.
Narayanan said the indiscriminate use of force against personnel delivering items specifically exempted by the government during the shutdown, will disrupt services.
“The essential services sector has to be free of harassment and violence. We request the state governments and concerned authorities to ensure that strict instructions are given to the police to permit delivery personnel with valid documentation to perform their duties in these times of crisis,” he said.
Some e-commerce players are also urging the government to expand the scope of essential products beyond food items and medicines to include other products, like cable and routers that may be required for customers who are working from home.