By Aditya Kalra and Sankalp Phartiyal
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – E-commerce and online groceries faced disruption to their warehouse and delivery operations in India on Monday as dozens of cities including New Delhi went into a lockdown to tackle the spread of coronavirus, industry executives said.
At least 75 districts across India were under lockdown to tackle the coronavirus that has infected 415 people and killed seven in the country with health experts warning a big jump could be imminent.
Though India’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs had urged states to allow some e-commerce deliveries to ensure essential supplies, different state notifications created confusion and have marred operations.
China’s Alibaba Group-backed online grocery firm BigBasket said it faced disruptions in many cities as police were not fully aware of certain exemptions announced by state governments for grocery deliveries and had stopped some of BigBasket’s delivery staff from operating.
“We hope things will improve soon,” said senior BigBasket executive Hari T.N., who urged governments to intervene to allow seamless grocery deliveries in the country.
Japan’s SoftBank-backed grocery firm Grofers warehouses in cities such as Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune and New Delhi have been “forced (into) lockdown”, said CEO Albinder Dhindsa.
Similar delivery or warehouse disruptions hit Amazon, Walmart’s Flipkart and Softbank-backed e-commerce website Snapdeal across states, industry executives said. The full extent of the disruptions was not immediately clear.
Flipkart said there were “operational issues on ground” and it was working with governments to resolve them while Snapdeal said uniform implementation of the federal advisory would help reduce disruption for buyers.
Amazon said it was working with local authorities to ensure goods arrive safely and without disruptions at clients’ homes.
The federal consumer affairs ministry had on Friday advised states to ensure “no disruption or panic” by exempting e-commerce operations from prohibitory orders. The ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
The Delhi state government issued front-page newspaper advertisements on Monday on the wider lockdown, restricting transportation and shutting businesses, but listed e-commerce of “all essential goods” as allowed. In Mumbai, authorities said home delivery of essential commodities was allowed.
“If the delivery boys are stopped, they won’t even know what’s inside each packet. The larger resolution is that you allow e-commerce delivery staff to be on the road or prohibit them completely,” said one e-commerce executive.
Streets in New Delhi and Mumbai were deserted on Monday, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging people to stay at home. Modi has assured there would be no shortage of essential goods.
But Priyanka Dhingra, who lives in Gurugram near New Delhi, was upset because of slow deliveries by BigBasket. “It’s obviously very inconvenient … something as simple as bread is taking 48 hours to come,” she said.
(Reporting by Aditya Kalra and Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Euan Rocha and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)