E-commerce giants Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart are working with the government authorities to ramp up the on-ground delivery network to meet the ultra-high grocery demand from millions of Indians who are stuck indoors due to the 21 days nation-wide lockdown.
To begin with, both Amazon and Flipkart are looking to get government approvals to stock food at their warehouses. This might help them streamline the supply chain and cut down the delivery time of the essential items.
Citing a government official, local media Economic Times (ET) said Flipkart was given a provisional certificate over the weekend that would allow it to stock food items in its 125 fulfillment centers and hubs.
“They suggested that they want to use their supply chain for non-essential goods and convert it into a network for essential goods,” the official told ET. “Over 125 sites of Flipkart have now been given conditional approvals because at this point of time states have the challenge to go do inspections.”
Meanwhile, Flipkart, Amazon, Delhivery, and Uber, among others, met the government officials last Saturday to discuss what government help they would require “to ramp up the availability of essential items across the country,” said the ET report.
Flipkart said its “teams are exploring all possible collaboration ideas, including the Railways amongst several other innovative ideas.”
The e-commerce companies are looking at railways’ freight network as a possible way to ensure the movement of essential goods, as it is difficult to transport it via road with local authorities across states stopping the vehicles. Even though the country is under lockdown, only passenger trains are suspended.
Citing sources, the above-mentioned news report said, three e-commerce companies have approached the government to transport at least 23 tonnes of goods each day through rail.
Uber, on its part, has reportedly offered to mobilize its tens of thousands of cabs that are currently grounded to make last-mile deliveries. Homegrown ride-hailing startup Ola has also sent a proposal to the government authorities across states, offering to mobilize its cabs in top cities.
In addition, Ola is looking to engage its kitchens spread across six metros, to supply 25,000 meals to healthcare staff, police, and migrant workers who are stuck in various camps.
At present, Uber and Ola, which have a combined fleet of 150,000, are working with state and central government agencies to provide rides for medical workers and urgent patients.
“We also stand ready to assist in keeping vital supply chains open for the Indian economy and to ensure last-mile delivery of essential items like food, medicines, and medical supplies,” an Uber spokesperson told ET.