21st century is all about the internet, with internet came e-commerce, replacing the traditional shopping ways. With the convenience that e-commerce brought, it became widely reachable in no time. But as we entered the 20th year of this century, the world was shaken with the novel corona virus- COVID-19. Lives of 7.8 Billion people came to a standstill and would probably never be the same as before anytime soon. As various governments adopted various lockdown measures to curb the situation, so did the Indian government.
First banning delivery of all good by e-commerce, soon the Ministry of Home Affairs allowed the delivery of essential goods (like groceries, medicines etc) on parallel lines allowing stand alone daily needs stores to operate. As India banned e-commerce towards the end of first quarter, the total impact is still unknown. Amazon India (largest market is India) profits fell to $2.5 Billion, down from $3.6 Billion in the first quarter of 2020. With the delivery of only essential goods, various e-commerce websites noticed an increase in the demand for non essential categorised goods. Flipkart reported a 4.5 times increase in the demand for Trimmers. Online delivery websites have been constantly requesting for a revision in the goods listed as essentials, mainly for electronic goods such as laptop, trimmer, Air conditioners and other electronic accessories.
As we enter Lockdown 3.0, we can sight some kind of relief for e-commerce industry as the GOI allowed the delivery of non essential goods in the Orange and Green zones across the country. The fight doesn’t end here.
- Even though the centre has allowed the delivery in the specified zones, it’s up to the state governments as to the extend to be allowed. While states like Maharashtra and Rajasthan support the centre with this move, various state governments have still not clarified their stance.
- E-commerce industry is facing constant opposition from the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) as they believe the government is not being just to them by allowing e-commerce to resume whereas the shops continue to be shut.
- IT industry is demanding the supply of electronics to be included in essential goods so that these goods can be delivered even in red zones and their employees do not face difficulties in working from home.
- Companies are facing immense difficulty in procuring curfew passes for good and personnel (especially with inter-state deliveries) process is time-consuming and instead the government can look at alternate mechanisms like digital identity checks.
- Safety of delivery personals is also a big challenge. With the fear of contracting the virus, companies report 30% non attendance of their ground staff. However, all major companies are providing necessary essentials like gloves and masking and providing ‘contact-free delivery’ facility.
- Thousands of workers are facing difficulties leaving their villages and resuming work- Sarpanch (village head) aren’t allowing men to go back to work.
- Security of riders while delivering goods is also at stake. Reports of stone pelting have surfaced. For instance, an online grocery delivery site- Grofers, which initially saw some of its delivery staff getting arrested and over 60,000 deliveries affected, said it has resumed operations in Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Noida, Ghaziabad, Bangalore, Ahmadabad, Lucknow and Kanpur with the help of local authorities.
The industry is urging government for uniform classification of essential items across various states. E-commerce provides to millions of people across India who are employed and dependent on it for their survival- small workers, artisans, farmers, MSME’s, professionals as well as skilled workers. With India being in the state of lockdown for almost two months now, it is very important for government to gradually take necessary measures for the millions jobless and revival of our economy working hand in hand with the state governments.