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Indian e-grocers worry about service disruption as the country goes into lockdown

Grocery is an essential and one of the most important daily necessities for people to get during lockdown.

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The staggering rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in India has crossed 500, resulting in an unprecedented increase in demand for grocery products.

With 30 out of a total 36 states and union territories going under either complete or partial lockdown in the country till March 31, people fear there will be a shortage of supplies even though Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation on March 19 said there is no need of panic buying and that there would be no shortage of everyday essential items.

However, almost all online grocery companies including Bigbasket, Grofers, Swiggy Store, and Dunzo, overwhelmed by rapidly surging orders, have been struggling to make the deliveries.

Grofers co-founder Albinder Dhindsa had to take it to Twitter after consignments in Faridabad, near Delhi were stopped by authorities. “Our @Grofers warehouse in Faridabad was closed by local law enforcement today. While we understand they are doing their duty, essential items will be denied to 20,000+ households in Faridabad and Delhi every day. We need help in sorting this out. @Mcf_Faridabad @ArvindKejriwal.”

A screenshot of the tweet of Grofers co-founder Albinder Dhindsa.

A person who did not wish to come on record said she has downloaded almost all online grocery apps—from Grofers, Bigbasket, and Swiggy to Daily Ninja—but none are serviceable in her area in Bengaluru. All the grocery stores in her neighborhood are shut.

The severity of the situation can be gauged by the fact that Bengaluru-based online grocer Bigbasket is not in a position to take any orders from new customers and is only delivering goods to its regular customers. Another Bengaluru resident, whose last order with Bigbasket was in last year, was denied service as she is not a regular customer.

We have reached out to Bigbasket to understand how it’s dealing with the rise in orders and will update the article once we hear from them.

Food delivery major Swiggy that delivers grocery in two cities, Bengaluru and Gurugram, is also facing challenges in fulfilling grocery orders. “Almost all grocery chain stores are closed and we are relying on small neighborhood stores to ensure people get their daily essential products,” a Swiggy executive told KrASIA. The Swiggy employee who did not wish to be named said even though grocery delivery comes under essential business category and is legally allowed to operate, local authorities on the ground are implementing their own rules.

According to a local media Entrackr report, Milkbasket’s employees are not being let go for delivery by local police authorities.

“Local authorities do not listen to vendors, don’t understand where they are going. On Hero Honda chowk (Gurugram), our 10 vehicles carrying milk were stopped on Monday. The authorities did not let them go. Hyderabad was completely locked down where we faced a 100% loss. While Bangalore and Gurugram were at 20% loss, Noida faced 10% loss,” Anant Goel, CEO, Milkbasket told Entrackr.

On the other hand, Reliance Retail, the retail arm of India’s one of the biggest companies Reliance Industries said it will ensure there are enough supplies of all necessary products such as staples, dairy, fruits, and vegetables. The company operates a network of 736 grocery chain stores across the country.

According to a report in the local media Economic Times, Reliance Retail is preparing for a pick-up facility for users to ensure minimum touchpoints and interaction with its staff members.