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Club Factory and Bigbasket work with offline partners amid COVID-19 lockdown

Offline businesses are losing out as the country is in 21-day lockdown.

Coronavirus general photo. Source: Shutterstock.

At a time when most of the business operations are closed due to the ongoing 21-day lockdown in India to contain the coronavirus spread, some online consumer companies are figuring out ways to tap the growing demand for essential services.

Chinese e-tailer Club Factory is reportedly wooing Indian vendor-partners to import essential goods including masks, hand sanitizers, and other protective medical gear from China and sell it online as well as offline. This would essentially help Club Factory make some sales on its platform, which like other e-commerce portals isn’t allowed to sell anything except essential items such as grocery, vegetables, medicines, and protective gear till the lockdown is lifted on April 14.

For the majority of e-commerce businesses such as those offering apparel and fashion accessories, electronics, furniture, and beauty products, among others, revenue has plummeted to near zero over the past couple of weeks. But Club Factory isn’t willing to sit back for two weeks and wait for the lockdown to get over.

A senior manager at Club Factory who is based in Gurugram told KrASIA that the planning is in an early stage. “We are seeing how we can help get essential healthcare products such as masks, sanitizers, and similar products from China to Indian sellers,” the person said on the condition of anonymity.

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According to a report in the local media Economic Times (ET), the new initiative is called Project Ginger. In a communication sent to vendors, the Hangzhou-headquartered company said it would “facilitate the purchase, custom clearance, warehousing, and shipment to end consumers.”

The company executive said while it’s working on procuring these goods, the company would ensure it complies with and rules and regulations in doing so.

The e-tailer said that it would source essential items from its vendor-partners’ behalf from China and let them list these goods both offline and online. “Not all sellers are experienced to handle cross border transactions, so we are working with them to ensure they have enough products to be in the business,” the executive said.

The communication from Club Factory to Indian vendors who have been affected because of the lockdown said the Project Ginger can give them a chance to have continuous cash flow without the need for a warehouse.

Meanwhile, Bengaluru-based e-grocer Bigbasket, which is struggling to meet high demand from millions of home-stuck Indians, is temporarily roping in the laid-off staff from restaurants to strengthen its delivery team. A report by ET said Bigbasket has partnered with the industry body National Restaurant Association of India and Retail Association of India to roll out temporary jobs offers.

The majority of the restaurants have closed shutters due to the lockdown and those who are operating with limited staff are seeing a slump in demand.

The Bengaluru-based company has set up a call center to expedite the process as the timing is crucial at this point. The demand for grocery services is at an all-time high and the company is struggling to fulfill orders. There is reportedly 80-90% labor shortage that online grocery delivery services are facing. Many workers have returned to their hometowns, others are unable to come to work due to the lockdown.

“Bigbasket is offering upwards of INR 500 (USD 6.65) per day…which is higher than what these boys usually earn,” the ET report said citing a restaurant owner. According to Hari Menon, chief executive officer at BigBasket, manpower continues to be the company’s biggest challenge, but “it is now getting better every day.”